New Red Wings arena — a timeline
How Ilitchville came to be.
Published: May 6, 2014
1967 — Mike and Marian Ilitch's beginnings in Detroit started when they opened their first Little Caesar's restaurant inside the city in 1967.
Early 1979 — Red Wings owner Bruce Norris signs deal with Detroit to move team from Olympia Stadium to Joe Louis Arena. Norris had threatened to leave the city for a proposed arena in Pontiac, but Detroit Mayor Coleman Young enticed Norris downtown. Young had already begun constructing the Joe before the deal had been reached, financing the entire cost of the $30.3 million facility with municipal bonds.
Dec. 27, 1979 — Detroit Red Wings play their first game at Joe Louis Arena against the St. Louis Blues.
June 3, 1982 — Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch purchases the Detroit Red Wings from Norris for an estimated $8 million, inheriting Joe Louis Arena in the process.
July 1987 — Mike Ilitch and his wife, Marian, purchase downtown’s Fox Theatre; the couple proposes and implements a $12 million plan to restore the 5,000-seat facility, which reopens the following year.
1989 — Ilitch relocates Little Caesars Inc. from the suburbs to downtown Detroit.
December 1991 — State bill passes allowing creation of an authority to push a financing package for a new baseball stadium in Detroit for the Tigers.
Feb. 20, 1992 — First reports surface in The Detroit News that Ilitch is interested in building a new arena for the Detroit Red Wings.
Feb. 22, 1992 — Detroit Free Press poll finds 68 percent of respondents would be opposed to raising taxes to finance a new baseball stadium.
July 1992 — Ilitch purchases the Detroit Tigers from rival pizza mogul, Domino’s founder Tom Monaghan, reportedly for $85 million.
September 1992 — Reports surface that Ilitch plans to conduct a study on whether to renovate Tiger Stadium or pursue the option of constructing a new one. Wayne County shares plans with Ilitch it previously devised for a new $200 million stadium with the team’s former owner, partly backed by state and county tax revenues and taxable debt, and partly backed by team revenues, according to The Bond Buyer. The package then would include a 1 percent restaurant tax, 1 percent hotel tax, as well as a 2 percent car rental tax.
Fall 1993 — Detroit civic leaders meet with state administration over legislation that would allow a new baseball stadium to be built.
February 1994 — Ilitch, along with former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, tour “old-style” baseball stadiums, as Ilitch expressed interest in constructing a new stadium for the Tigers.
Summer-Fall 1994 — State lawmakers push bills to finance new baseball stadium.
September 1994 — Reports surface of plan for Wayne County and Detroit to finance entire cost of new baseball stadium, then lease it to Ilitch.
Summer 1995 — Talks restart between Tigers and Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford for a joint stadium proposal in downtown. Ilitch’s previous plan to use casino revenue to finance a new home for the Tigers is quashed after then-Gov. John Engler nixes the idea of expanding gambling in Detroit, according to Crain’s Detroit Business. The new plan shifts the site of the new ballpark to Comerica Park’s current location.
October 1995 — A deal is announced between the city of Detroit and Ilitch to build a new $235 million, 42,000-seat ballpark for the Tigers. The plan would be financed through $55 million in gaming revenues and $40 million in tax increment financing bonds, collected from the Detroit Downtown Development Authority.
November 1995 — The Tiger Stadium Fan Club, a group created to promote the idea of preserving Tiger Stadium, files a lawsuit challenging the legality of the state’s financial commitment for the project. The club had also taken issue with Detroit City Council’s decision to revoke a referendum passed by city voters in 1992 to prevent city tax dollars from being used to finance a new ballpark. The club launches a petition drive to challenge the city’s funding for the stadium.
December 1995 — Detroit City Council approves $40 million in funds for a new stadium for the Tigers.
January 1996 — The Tiger Stadium Fan Club collects enough signatures to place a referendum before city voters in March. It would ask voters to repeal a city ordinance that allowed the use of public funds for a new stadium.
March 1996 — Voters shoot down the referendum, and a circuit court judge upholds the governor’s decision to appropriate casino revenues for a new stadium. The club appeals the decision, delaying the proposed opening for new ballpark in 1998.
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