Red Wings take first steps toward new stadium in downtown Detroit

The Red Wings have wished to move from Joe Louis Arena for years.

It’s long been speculated that the Detroit Red Wings would be building a new stadium to replace the 33-year-old Joe Louis Arena, but until recently it had merely been speculation. It was reported in the Sport Business Journal that the Red Wings have hired an architect firm to design and build a new stadium for the team in Detroit.

The team and Mike Illich’s Olympia Entertainment, which owns the Red Wings among other things, have hired the architect firm HKS to partner with Chan Krieger NBBJ to develop the new jewel in Detroit.

Both firms are experienced and bring good pedigrees with them for the new Red Wings stadium. HKS was the firm that developed and built the American Airline Center in Dallas. The American Airlines Center is home to the Dallas Stars and the Dallas Mavericks and has long been one of the most appealing and well designed stadiums in the NHL and NBA. NBBJ is a Boston-based firm that has worked in Detroit for some time on the Detroit Riverfront Project and specializes in urban environments.

Both firms are tasked with replacing the 20,066 seat Joe Louis Arena with a new 18,000 seat stadium in downtown Detroit. With the two firms joining to develop a new stadium, it could be safe to say that the Red Wings will find themselves calling one of the most impressive stadiums in the NHL home in just a couple years.

The Red Wings have long expressed their desire to move out of Joe Louis Arena, which despite having a fantastic location on the Detroit River, makes no effort to capitalize on it. Once a fan enters the stadium it is like a concrete tomb, the stadium could be anywhere in the city and the river is completely forgotten. One thing holding the Red Wings to Joe Louis is the highly favorable lease that costs the team just $1 per year for the land.

But Detroit is looking for an upgrade to their facilities, Joe Louis was built in 1979 and looks like it. The seats are narrow and there is little leg room for taller individuals. A major factor in Detroit’s hunt for a new stadium is their desire for more retail space within the building. There is very little retail space available inside Joe Louis Arena, with just a little more than two permanent shops in the building, the rest of the concourse is filled with temporary shops.

There is much speculation as to where a new stadium for the Red Wings would be built, with many businesses taking guesses and buying land close to areas where they believe a new stadium may spring up. The most likely location for a new stadium would be behind the Fox Theatre and Hockeytown Café just off of Woodward Ave.

Olympia Entertainment has been quietly buying up parking lots behind the Fox Theatre for several years now, and surprisingly all of the parking lots connect to one another, wonder if that’s a coincidence? Illich has also long said that he wishes to have a “Fox Town” around the Fox Theatre. This “Fox Town” would encompass the Fox Theatre, Comerica Park, Hockeytown Café and Motor City Casino, as well as the newly constructed Red Wings stadium.

No designs for the new stadium have been published, but HKS and NBBJ will more than likely look to the newly built stadiums in the NHL and draw from the successes that have been found in them. The Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis is a gorgeous stadium, as is the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh; if the new stadium in Detroit takes the best from each of those buildings, Red Wings fans will enjoy their new stadium for many years to come.



About Sean Gagnier

Sean Gagnier is a Journalism senior at Michigan State University. He hopes to graduate with a degree in sports journalism in May 2013. He was born in Clinton Township, Michigan and currently lives in East Lansing. During his time at Michigan State, Gagnier has gained experience in working with various members of the faculty at Michigan State as well as blogging for the Oakland Press and the Detroit Athletic Co. about all things Detroit sports. Follow him on Twitter @SeanGagnier and check out his personal blog.