CHICAGO - The new owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team will decide by year's end whether to pursue building a stadium that local officials have said could draw on tax-exempt bonding.
Mike Ilitch, the owner of Little Caesars Pizza, took over the Tigers from rival pizza maven Tom Monaghan, owner of Domino's Pizza, last week after the sale was approved Aug. 24 by major league team owners, Mr. Shea said.
Mr. Ilitch, who said he wants to keep the team in Detroit, needs four months to conduct a "fact-finding mission" to determine if the existing stadium, built in 1912, can be renovated or must be replaced, according to Greg Shea, a Tigers spokesman.
Rumblings from the team's previous owner about leaving the city to escape the aging stadium prompted Detroit and Wayne County officials last year to agree to form a stadium authority to oversee the building and operation of a new ballpark in Detroit.
However, officials and Mr. Monaghan could not agree on a location for the ballpark, and he subsequently announced that the team was for sale. Since then, county officials have said plans for the new stadium were on hold until the team was sold and the county could negotiate with the new owner.
Pat Kukula, director of strategic redevelopment for Wayne County, said yesterday that the county has shared its proposal for a new stadium with Mr. Ilich and that it was waiting to hear what he decides to do.
Under a financing plan devised by the county last year, a combination of tax-exempt debt, backed by county tax revenues, and taxable debt, backed by team revenues, would be used to build the $200 million stadium.
While the Tax Reform Act of 1986 prohibits the use of tax-exempt debt for sports facilities, a source familiar with the proposed stadium financing has said the deal would be structured so that it would fall afoul of only the law's private-use test, not its private-security test, and therefore would not be considered a private activity.
The county's plan received a boost from the state last December when Michigan Gov. John Engler signed legislation allowing Wayne and five other counties to place a special tax package before voters to finance stadium and convention facilities.
A county official has said that if the package is approved, the 1% restaurant tax, 1% hotel/motel tax, and 2% car rental tax would raise an estimated $17 million annually to secure $150 million of tax-exempt bonds for the project.
The official has said the next opportunity to place the measure on the ballot wouldn't be until August 1993, unless the team's new owner would be willing to pay for the $2 million cost of a special election.