|The Baddest Bowl|
Interior of Little Caesars Arena
|Former names||Detroit Events Center (working title)|
|Address||2645 Woodward Avenue|
|Public transit||Sproat Street/Adelaide Street|
|Owner||Downtown Development Authority|
|Capacity||Ice hockey: 19,515
|Broke ground||September 25, 2014|
|Opened||September 5, 2017|
|Construction cost||US$862.9 million|
|Structural engineer||Magnusson Klemencic Associates|
|Services engineer||Smith Seckman Reid, Inc.|
|General contractor||Barton Malow/Hunt/White|
|Detroit Red Wings (NHL) (2017-present)
Detroit Pistons (NBA) (2017-present)
Little Caesars Arena is a multi-purpose arena in Midtown Detroit. Construction began on April 24, 2015, following a formal groundbreaking ceremony on September 25, 2014. Opened on September 5, 2017, the arena, which cost $862.9 million to construct, succeeded both Joe Louis Arena and The Palace of Auburn Hills as the homes of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association (NBA), respectively.
The arena features a unique, glass-roofed concourse connecting it to offices and shops surrounding it. It anchors a new $2.1 billion 650,000-square-foot (60,000 m2) sports and entertainment district in and around downtown Detroit that will include mixed-use neighborhoods with new residential and retail outlets located around the Cass Corridor, Ford Field, and Comerica Park.
Little Caesars Arena was designed by HOK, and features a unique "deconstructed" layout. Buildings housing retail outlets, the arena's box office, and the offices of the Red Wings are built outside the arena, but a glass roof is erected between the buildings and the arena itself. The roof forms an indoor "street" that serves as the arena's concourse. The concourse will remain open year-round, even if an event is not occurring inside the arena, allowing it to also be used as a venue of its own. There is also an outdoor plaza with a large video display.
The eight-story arena is built as a bowl, with its floor 40 feet (12 m) below street level with seating capacities of 19,515 for ice hockey and 20,491 for basketball. The bowl also features a "gondola" seating level suspended above the stands. The exterior of the bowl structure is capable of displaying video projections. A 37,300-square-foot (3,470 m2) practice ice rink is also inside the arena. In addition to serving as the practice facility for the Red Wings, the rink serves as the home of both Little Caesars AAA Hockey Club and Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League as well.
The Bell Centre in Montreal has been cited to be one of the biggest influences of the arena's design.Christopher Ilitch described the arena's design as being "revolutionary", and believes that it may influence future arena designs in other cities.
The arena features a centerhung scoreboard that measures at 5,100 square feet. The arena also features 45 LED displays covering more than 13,500 square feet and 16.5 million plus LEDs in and around it.
It was reported in May 2012 that the Red Wings had hired HKS, Inc. and NBBJ to design a new arena for the team, which would replace the 33-year-old Joe Louis Arena as their home ice. The new arena would be owned by the city's Downtown Development Authority and its land would be leased to Olympia Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Red Wings' parent company, Ilitch Holdings, rent free for a long term. Olympia would have full operational control of the arena, an arrangement similar to the one Olympia had with the city-owned Joe Louis Arena. Sales of game tickets, parking, concessions, souvenirs, and any potential naming rights deals would not be subject to revenue sharing with the City of Detroit as they were with Joe Louis Arena. The city earned an average of $7 million per year through these revenue sharing agreements.
Olympia Entertainment officially announced in December 2012 its intention to develop a new district in downtown Detroit composed of offices, residential facilities, and "a new state-of-the-art, multi-purpose events center", with an estimated cost of $650 million. In June 2013, the Downtown Development Authority officially announced the location of the new Detroit Red Wings arena and entertainment district. On July 24, 2013, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved the Downtown Development Authority's request for $650 million in funding.
Christopher Ilitch unveiled renderings of the new arena and entertainment district on July 20, 2014, referring to it as "The District Detroit". He explained that the project's goal was to "build out a sports and entertainment district that is world-class and rivals anything in the country, perhaps the world." The district, which would complement the QLINE streetcar, was primarily built on vacant land near the Cass Corridor along Woodward Avenue, and would incorporate five distinct neighborhoods with new residential and apartment units and European-influenced designs. The district would also feature a hotel, new restaurants, and new retail outlets. Olympia Development would fund the refurbishment of public infrastructure around the arena district, such as street lighting, sidewalks, and paving. One of the neighborhoods, referred to by Ilitch as "Wildcat Corner", would incorporate the area occupied by the Tigers and Lions' home venues of Comerica Park and Ford Field, respectively, and replace several parking lots with new apartment complexes featuring street-level retail outlets.
Ilitch emphasized the impact of the arena district project would have on Detroit's economy: the new facilities would result in 1,000 new jobs in the city, and 8,300 new jobs would be created for the construction process. Olympia was committed to having 51% of the construction jobs be filled by residents of Detroit. Additionally, two Michigan-based contractors would be among those working on the arena, and 80% of the materials used in the construction of the arena was also to be sourced from Michigan-based companies when possible.
Olympia Entertainment CEO Tom Wilson described an intent for the arena to be an "epicenter" for hockey, prospecting it as a site for events and tournaments at the college and junior levels such as the IIHF World Junior Championship and the Memorial Cup. Wilson also stated its commitment to continue hosting the annual collegiate Great Lakes Invitational at the arena, provided the universities involved maintained their desire to participate.
A formal groundbreaking ceremony was held at the arena site on September 25, 2014. Following the completion of the new arena, Joe Louis Arena will be demolished, and its former site will be redeveloped into a hotel and retail complex. The sale of the Joe Louis Arena site comes as part of a bankruptcy settlement between the Financial Guaranty Insurance Company and the city of Detroit.
The Detroit Historic District Commission approved the demolition of the Park Avenue Hotel on June 10, 2015 to make room for what will be the arena's loading dock. Olympia Development claimed that the Park Avenue Hotel stood in a high-security area. A demolition permit was issued on June 22, 2015. Detroit-based Adamo Demolition was the contractor listed on the permit. Despite protests, the building was imploded on July 11, 2015. On August 30, 2015, Olympia Entertainment announced that an estimated 488,000 cubic yards of soil had been excavated in recent months for the below-grade bowl, and hundreds of deep pier foundations were being drilled and filled with concrete through September. The steel frame of the arena began to go up in late fall.
Construction of the ice surface began on January 5, 2017. On February 16, 2017, various construction changes began inside the arena in order to accommodate the Detroit Pistons. Construction of the ice rink began on March 8, 2017.
In late October 2016, it was reported that the Detroit Pistons were considering a move from The Palace of Auburn Hills to Little Caesars Arena as soon as the 2017-18 season, pending city and league approval. Pistons owner Tom Gores, Palace Sports & Entertainment vice chairman Arn Tellem, and Olympia Entertainment had been in negotiations over a partnership since the summer of 2015, with talks intensifying just as the Pistons were set to open their 2016-17 season; the terms also included a possible merger between Olympia and the Pistons' holding company Palace Sports & Entertainment. Finally, the Pistons sought land to construct a new headquarters and practice facility within the vicinity of the arena.
On June 20, 2017, Detroit City Council approved the Pistons' move to Little Caesars Arena. On August 3, 2017, it was announced that the NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the move, which made it official. This marked the first time since 1974 that all four major sports teams played in the city limits on a regular basis, and the first time since 1978 that the Pistons played in the city of Detroit on a regular basis. The move also marked the first time since 1961 that they and the Red Wings shared the same arena on a regular basis.
On October 8, 2017, as a byproduct of the move, entertainment bookings and event management at the venues owned by both companies, including Little Caesars Arena, were assumed by 313 Presents LLC, a joint venture between Olympia and Palace Sports & Entertainment.
Little Caesars Arena opened on September 5, 2017 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Red Wings played their inaugural game at Little Caesars Arena during the preseason against the Boston Bruins on September 23, 2017. They won the game 5-1. They played their first regular season game at the arena on October 5, 2017 against the Minnesota Wild. The Red Wings won the game 4-2.
The Pistons played their inaugural game at Little Caesars Arena during the preseason against the Charlotte Hornets on October 4, 2017. They lost the game 108-106. Their regular season home opener, also against the Hornets, was played on October 18, 2017. The Pistons beat the Hornets 102-90.
In the inaugural season of Little Caesars Arena, concerns were raised over diminished attendance of Red Wings and Pistons games. During the Red Wings' first regular season game at the arena, the sight of a half empty lower bowl was noticeable due to it being nationally televised. When asked about this, Olympia CEO Tom Wilson explained that many fans went to the concourse to check out the arena, noting that the same thing happened during the first event. In early November 2017, the team announced that all of the home games played at that point were sellouts despite the sight of empty seats. Like the Red Wings, the Pistons have had similar issues. When asked about it, they stated that ticket sales were up despite the empty seats.
It was originally announced that Little Caesars Arena would cost $450 million to construct, on top of an additional $200 million for constructing the new district. $285 million of the total $650 million cost would be public funds, with $365.5 million in private funding.
On May 23, 2017, it was reported that the cost of the new arena had risen to $862.9 million.
In June 2017, a lawsuit was filed by Robert Davis and city clerk candidate D. Etta Wilcoxon, seeking to prohibit the use of school property tax revenue to fund Little Caesars Arena and the new Pistons headquarters without a public vote. The money had originally been approved by voters only for use by Detroit Public Schools Community District to cover operational expenses. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith dismissed much of the suit, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue over the issue. The judge did, however, allow an unrelated count, alleging violations of the Equal Protection Clause by the DPSCD against Davis, to move forward.
On February 11, 2016, it was reported that a local businessman had sold the domain name "littlecaesarsarena.com" three weeks earlier to an international brokerage firm for "five figures", which suggested that Little Caesars, a pizza chain also owned by the Ilitch family, had acquired the naming rights to the new arena. Olympia Entertainment officially announced on April 28, 2016 that the venue would be known as Little Caesars Arena. It was also revealed that a large Little Caesars logo would be displayed on the arena's roof; the previous plan for the LED roof was dismissed as being a "placeholder". Chris Ilitch defended the decision of not selling the naming rights to a third-party company, arguing that it was meant to reflect Little Caesars' position as a "legacy business" of the Ilitch family.
The announcement was poorly-received. Prior to the unveiling of the official name, some fans suggested to The Detroit News that the arena should have been named after Gordie Howe. Following Howe's death on June 10, 2016, an online petition began to circulate requesting that Little Caesars Arena be renamed in honor of the former Red Wings player.
In February 2017, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated that the NHL All-Star Game would likely return to Detroit for the first time since 1980 once construction of The District Detroit is completed.
The first regular season college basketball games held at Little Caesars Arena were played on December 16, 2017, with a doubleheader featuring the Michigan Wolverines playing the Detroit Mercy Titans, and the Michigan State Spartans playing the Oakland Golden Grizzlies.
Little Caesars Arena has hosted the Horizon League's men's and women's basketball tournaments since 2018. Detroit began hosting the men's tournament at Joe Louis Arena in 2016 under a 5-year deal, and the women's tournament in 2017.
First and second-round games during the 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament were played at played at Little Caesars Arena, hosted by the University of Detroit Mercy. Although the nearby Palace of Auburn Hills hosted preliminary rounds of the Tournament in 2013, this was the Tournament's first visit to Detroit since the city hosted the 2009 Final Four at Ford Field. The Tournament will return to the arena in 2021.
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