Detroit Red Wings Arena: Plans for District, Arena Revealed

The news sites in Detroit have been abuzz with details released about the new Red Wings' arena and the district surrounding it. Crain's Detroit Business has no fewer than four angles on the project up so far, including a big breakdown of the arena itself and a list of companies known to be involved in the project so far. The Free Press has an article up which includes a short video of Chris Ilitch discussing the project on a grand scale, using words like "transformational" and "catalytic."

I highly recommend you follow those links for the full details, because there's way more to be covered than what we're going over here today.

The plan is to have everything ready to open in Summer of 2017, including the presumed Red Wings' move-in date. This includes building in five different areas simultaneously to have the arena, residential areas, and retail space all finished close to the same time. When complete, I have a feeling that the area will look quite a bit like Kansas City's Power & Light District, a similar "outdoor mall" type walkable area anchored by a large arena. 360 Architecture is both the lead designer on this project and played a big part in the Kansas City project.

Discussions about the viability of the plan will continue forever. If the comparison is to Kansas City's downtown redevelopment, then people will likely be quick to point out that the city itself has had to overcome shortfalls in revenue based on predictions before the P&L Disctrict opened. As a resident of the greater Kansas City area, I'll say the district is consistently lively and seems to have been an overall benefit to the city. Additionally, it's important to note that one big difference between the projects is the residential plans for the city of Detroit.

But enough about that; let's get to the arena itself.

Originally, the arena was slated to seat about 18,000 people. That figure has now ballooned to about 20,000. The arena will be set with the playing surface below the street level while the top of the structure "may stand no more than two or three stories tall" according to the Crain's article on the arena. I'll save the jokes about feeling like Dante finding that the more you spend, the more you get to descend towards lower levels until you reach a lake of ice. Hey, a few times a season, you'll even see a group of Devils when you get there.

The Crain's article also includes a cool "Drone's view" of the area which outlines where exactly things will stand and leads to concept drawings. I highly recommend checking that out, even if it's just the slightest-bit creepy that they suddenly changed the concept of a "bird's eye view" to one that's juuuuust a little more evocative of Big Brother.

The roof of the as-of-yet-unnamed arena will be LED lighted and can show a variety of colors and designs. Concept art shows the roof lit up with the Red Wings' logo, but it can and will easily be changed for the large number of concerts and other events that will take place there. I'm sure it will also be used to share the good news about whatever corporate sponsor ponies up for the naming rights. This isn't a guarantee, but Ilitch Holdings will hold the rights to sell the name and keep the revenues and what company isn't going to do that? I know that a lot of us (myself included) are going to feel a little raw about a corporate name, but unless you're willing to pony up the hundreds of millions in revenue they can gain by such an inconsequential sale, there's not a lot you can do about it.

One detail which has not yet been revealed will be the number of suites. Luxury boxes (specifically the Joe Louis Arena's lack of better ones) has been a big area where the Wings have lagged behind other teams in the NHL for revenue potential. The boxes in the Joe are nice, but having seen the amenities in newer arenas, they don't hold a candle. Teams pull in revenues for these luxury boxes equaling the same revenue as several sections of "commoners' seats", so being able to draw in the folks willing to pay that is a large motivating factor.

Another feature of the arena is what they're calling a "deconstructed" design where the concourse, offices, and shops will be technically built outside the arena so that they can remain open even when the arena portion isn't in use. The very first picture in the Freep's gallery of concept art shows an area that can be opened when the arena is closed and closed when the arena is open (as nobody is going to want to have to show a ticket for re-entry to the arena every time they want to get up and go outside to buy concessions). The rest of the pictures show what the ideal life would be like living or shopping in the area, provided you can deal with the horror of nobody having a face.

We're still years away from actually getting to see a Red Wings game in the new arena [insert joke about said game featuring Dan Cleary], and dozens of arguments about whether any of this is a good idea for Detroit, but I'm excited about getting to see a Red Wings game in a state-of-the-art arena built for them. I've loved every trip to the Joe I've ever made, but let's face it, that's an old barn in bad need of replacement.