By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Elite Sports Training attorney Robert Akouri provided an update and responded to claims made by Mayor Daniel Paletko on the redevelopment of Canfield Arena, 2100 Kinloch.
During the May 28 City Council meeting, Akouri said the two claims made by Paletko a week prior of Elite not paying rent and delays in construction work “couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“I find what the mayor said to be reckless, offensive and quite candidly rises to the level of slander,” Akouri said.
Akouri also provided documentation to the council showing that Elite has been paying $5,803 in rent on time for the past five months and that those checks were given to and cashed by the city.
He also said Elite timely submitted its application, emailed the Water Department about problems underground, and also found unforeseen circumstances in the ground.
“When we did a percolation test of the soil, we found out there were soil problems, and footings in foundation beneath Elite Sports facility where we are building out have to be done and rebuilt,” Akouri said. “Over a month and a half ago this city received our paperwork for the revised permits and has been sitting and we finally received permits recently. We’re not the delay.”
Akouri expressed his frustration, saying Elite is writing a check to the city for a building owners cannot finish because they are waiting for the city to give them the green light.
“I am a resident of the city of Dearborn Heights,” Elite Sports Training co-owner Mike Makki said. “I do want this project to come to a completion. I look forward to working with the departments in making that happen.”
WB Development CEO Wissam Beydoun gave a timeline of the project from contract signing to the current permit approval, during the meeting.
He said the contract should’ve been signed last August about the same time Elite applied for a demolition permit, but the contract was delayed and signed in September.
The demolition permit expired 30 days after it was granted so Elite had to apply for a second permit, apply for a DTE disconnect and water disconnect which Elite couldn’t receive because the city’s water department kept delaying, Beydoun said. In September, another demolition permit was obtained and an asbestos test was completed a week later.
Demolition took place at the end of September and with the weather and building size took one month to complete, Beydoun said.
Next, an initial foundation permit for what could be seen on the surface was applied for, but when the ground was opened in November the soil was very tender and weak, he said.
“We had to bring in a team of engineers to analyze this, a soil test ordered on Nov. 15 and by the time we got the results back on Dec. 11 it was almost a month,” Beydoun said. “Then we began getting products and steel materials on the construction site in late December.”
A team of engineers was brought back following the results, and Elite owners had to use 9-foot-by-9-foot footings almost seven feet underground to hold the 1,100-ton building.
“That’s over 2.2 million tons of steel — of weight we have to hold,” Beydoun said. “We’re progressing every day, even with the weather conditions during the winter.”
Elite submitted new foundation plans in March, but ran into another obstacle having to submit structural support drawings to show how steel beams are going to hold the tons of weight because the building ordered was pre-fabricated.
Complete revised building plans were submitted on April 4 and stayed with the city until May 15, Beydoun said. He also said it wasn’t until he inquired about the plans that he was told the plans weren’t submitted to the fire marshal.
Beydoun said he talked to the fire marshal, was able to get everything cleared up, and Elite received permits on May 20 so construction could continue.
The council unanimously approved a 15-year lease agreement with Elite Sports Training during an Aug. 14 study session.
Under the agreement, Elite will control the ice arena property for 15 years with two options to extend and run the baseball diamond for 12 years with an option for the city to extend for three years.
Makki won the bid to develop the arena in February. Costs for the new building and improvements is roughly $790,000. During construction of the building, Makki will not pay rent through December which was agreed on at the council’s study session.
Elite will demolish the current ice arena, construct a new building, improve the baseball field, and add batting cages, golfing and new artificial turf. Youth athletic programs and other organizations will be able to rent time at the facility.
The baseball fields at the new building site and baseball field at Swapka Park, 5499 McKinley, will be improved to become playable, according to the plans.
The city-owned Canfield Arena was condemned in 2017 and has remained vacant since then due to rodent, electrical and exit issues along with late payments from the former tenant.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])