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Should $34.5 million of taxpayer money be used to reimburse billionaires for new stadium?

Little Caesars Arena Construction site in downtown, with a Pistons banner
Tyler Scott
Michigan Radio
Little Caesars Arena Construction site in Detroit.

Can $34.5 million of public money be used to reimburse two billionaires building a sports arena? That’s what a federal lawsuit will try to answer.

Palace Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Detroit Pistons, Olympia Entertainment and the NBA were added to the list of defendants in a lawsuit against the Detroit Public Schools Community District today.

Detroit city council approved $34.5 million in bonds for the new arena last month with a 7-2 vote. 

Activist Robert Davis, who filed the lawsuit, says Detroit residents should be allowed to vote on how their tax money is used.

“If this is such a great project, the vote should go overwhelmingly in their favor, but for whatever reason, they’re trying to prevent the citizens from voting on this issue,” Davis said.

The original deal to move the team downtown was brokered between city officials and Pistons owner Tom Gores behind closed doors.

Davis says the lawsuit will have no impact on construction of the stadium.

“No one is trying to stop the project, we’re just trying to make sure that tax dollars are not being used to reimburse billionaires,” Davis said.

According to Davis, there will be a hearing next week Wednesday to decide whether residents will vote on the reimbursement.

While it’s too late for the August primary, the issue could end up on the November ballot. 

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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