Ilitches' $1M employee fund might not cover LCA's food, beverage workers

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Ilitch Holdings' $1 million commitment to pay the salaries of part-time workers during the coronavirus shutdown for the next month will cover about 1,500 employees.

But it might not cover all who work at Little Caesars Arena.

The Red Wings, like the also-Ilitch-owned Tigers, contract out food and beverage services to Sportservice, a branch of the Buffalo, N.Y.-based Delaware North company. Delaware North has contracts with some 50 arenas spread across four continents.

Delaware North chairman Jeremy Jacobs owns the NHL's Boston Bruins and the Bruins' and Celtics' home arena, TD Garden. He's worth $3.5 billion and has more than 50,000 employees.

A spokesperson for Delaware North declined to comment when reached by The Detroit News on Saturday.

Ilitch Holdings' $1-million commitment to pay the salaries of part-time workers during the coronavirus shutdown for the next month will cover about 1,500 employees.

The Bruins issued a statement Friday to the Boston Herald which said, "We are actively exploring support options." That statement, though, applied only to TD Garden employees. 

LCA's food and beverage workers are represented by Local 24, which has more than 6,000 members. A message for union president Nia Winston was not immediately returned Saturday.

The Ilitches announced Friday their $1 million commitment, on behalf of their vast group of companies, including the Red Wings, Tigers, Fox Theatre, 313 Presents and Little Caesars Arena.

"Our sincere hope is that this provides comfort to our colleagues in this difficult time," Chris Granger, president of sports and entertainment for Ilitch Holdings, said in a statement. 

On Saturday, in response to an inquiry from The News, an Ilitch spokesperson said the fund, which went into effect Thursday, covers ticket sellers, ushers, restroom attendants, guest-relations representatives, security representatives, parking attendances, game-day production staff and "others." It wasn't immediately clear if food- and beverage-service workers fall under the "other" category; a followup message from The News wasn't immediately returned.

The fund covers those missing work at LCA, the Fox Theatre and the Tigers' spring home in Lakeland, Fla., Joker Marchant Stadium. At this point, the fund doesn't cover workers for the Tigers, whose season will be delayed at least two weeks, and almost certainly longer than that. Many Delaware North employees work both LCA and Comerica Park.

Pistons star Blake Griffin also pledged a $100,000 donation for arena workers, and the Pistons have agreed to assist, as well. It's not clear how that money will be divided up, and a spokesperson for the Pistons didn't immediately return a message Saturday.

There are about 1,500 part-time employees of LCA, with an average of 500 who work on game days for the Red Wings and Pistons or for a concert, an Ilitch spokesperson said.

Many sports teams and stars have leaped into action to make sure employees are compensated, the trend started by Dallas Mavericks owner and "Shark Tank" star Mark Cuban. The United Center in Chicago was among the latest to act, pledging $3.3 million for Blackhawks and Bulls workers. Crain's Chicago said the United Center payroll per game was about $240,000. An Ilitch spokesperson wouldn't comment on the average payroll per event at LCA.

LCA is losing four Red Wings games, eight Pistons games and seven non-pro sports events, including the NCAA's Frozen Four, which was scheduled for April 9 and 11. Fox Theatre has lost five events, so far.

The goodwill efforts of businesses extend beyond sports, with the temporarily closed Detroit Institute of Arts paying their employees, and Comcast offering low-income families two months of free Internet as schools shift to online learning, among many others.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984