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A Monumental Day: The District Detroit begins.

A Monumental Day

“This is Pure Michigan.”

That’s what Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told a crowd of VIPs from across metro Detroit and the state Thursday afternoon, Sept. 25, at the launch of an exciting new chapter in the city’s history.

Hundreds gathered near Woodward and Sibley to celebrate the groundbreaking for the new Detroit Red Wings arena and the larger development that will surround it.

“This is not just about an arena,” Snyder said. “This is about the spirit of a city.”

The Red Wings arena project is the heart of The District Detroit, a transformational development designed to renovate 50 blocks into a world-class, walkable community where people will live, shop and enjoy the finest in sports, entertainment and dining.

In addition to dignitaries like Gov. Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and members of the Detroit City Council and the state legislature, the event was celebrated with a performance from the Cass Tech High School Marching Band and Larry Callahan & Selected of God gospel choir, which sang an a cappella version of Detroit superstar Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

Working Together

The five-neighborhood sports and entertainment community is the vision of longtime Detroit boosters and entrepreneurs Mike and Marian Ilitch, explained Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., which is spearheading The District Detroit.

“They are two people whose hard work, passion and commitment have brought us here today,” he said, praising their “unwavering commitment to the city and its people.

“This project is the culmination of their life’s work so far,” he said, bringing the crowd to its feet.

The vision may have come from the Ilitch family, but speakers on Thursday also praised the spirit of cooperation between The District developers and city, county and state governments and agencies that brought the plan to launch day.

“It speaks to our community’s collective will to create a better community,” Ilitch said.

Long-Term Impact

Mayor Duggan praised the Ilitch organization’s commitment to ensuring 51 percent of The District Detroit construction jobs be filled by Detroit residents.

And the benefits don’t end there, he said. “The opportunities for Detroiters from this project will last long after the construction.”

The city stands to gain $210 million a year from the project, which will have a total impact of $1.8 billion for the state. “It will have an economic impact that rings loudly throughout the state of Michigan,” Ilitch said.

Afterward, the crowd stayed to have individual ceremonial photographs taken, turning dirt using shovels with handles made from hockey sticks. Others expressed great optimism about the project, which opens in 2017.

Former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was also at the event and Duggan credited him with getting the project moving in its earliest stages.

“It was a long time coming,” Bing said. “It’s long overdue and worth waiting for.”

More to Come

While Thursday afternoon’s event was held for a select crowd, The District is planning additional events to introduce metro Detroiters to the project.

The first event is the Red Wings Experience. The public will be able to skate on a synthetic ice rink at the site of the future arena at Woodward and Sibley. The event, which will be free and open to everyone, will run Saturday, Sept. 27, through Sunday, Oct. 5. The rink will be open 10 a.m.–2 p.m. on weekends and 6–9 p.m. weekdays.

A Detroit Slow Roll through The District Detroit is planned for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6. Details are being finalized, but bikers should plan to meet at MotorCity Casino. Check back here for more information. In addition, a Cass Park Clean Up event is in the works. Visit our events page for date and time.

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