Little Caesars Arena opens to fanfare, excitement in Detroit

Little Caesars Arena opening

DETORIT, MICH. - Using giant scissors, city and state leaders cut a ceremonial ribbon at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit as a crowd of spectators watched.

Then confetti flew.

“We put our heart and soul into something truly spectacular for the people of this city, state and region,”  Christopher Ilitch, CEO of his family's Ilitch Holdings, said moments earlier.

Today's event and other activities planned this week celebrate the completion of the $863 million facility that will be home to the Red Wings and Pistons.

Ilitch, whose family built the arena, said it launches a new era in Detroit professional sports where four teams, including the Tigers and Lions, play within four blocks of each other, a claim no other city in the U.S. can make.

He said his dad, the late Mike Ilitch, was very enthusiastic about the vision and plans and would be doing his signature double fist pump that shows his excitement if he was still here.

►Related: Little Caesars Arena to breathe life into dead zone of Detroit

The ceremony today kicked off with the Cass Tech band. News cameras lined the risers above the crowd made up of hundreds of people, and dozens of workers on the project watched, wearing hard hats.

Ilitch was joined on stage by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, City Council President Brenda Jones and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores.

“As far as Detroit goes, this is a huge win,” Gores told the crowd. “I think this could complete our comeback.”

The arena is part of a larger project known as the District Detroit, a 50-block development planned around the arena that will feature businesses, restaurants, and bars

The project is anticipated to be 62% privately funded and 38% public funded.

During the next few days, public tours will lead up to the venue’s first gig, a Kid Rock concert set for Sept. 12.

Jason Gapa, 32, of Redford attended the ribbon cutting and said he used to live nearby on Henry Street.  He said it was great day for the city and the neighborhood.

"There's years of disinvestment in this community, particularly in the south Cass Corridor," said Gapa, who sits on the Neighborhood Advisory Committee. "Just happy to see new life, you know, breathed into the area."

The new arena was designed by stadium designers HOK architects and features a playing surface that sits 40 feet below street level and the Via, an indoor street covered by a glass roof that connects the arena to the Red Wings offices, retail shops, and the box office.

With a lower profile and a façade that utilizes buildings of contrasting heights, different windows, and various kinds of brick, the arena blends in to its urban surroundings along Woodward Avenue.

The arena, which replaces Joe Louis Arena as the home of the Red Wings, will offer several dining options including the “artisanal-style pizza kitchen” Mike’s Pizza Bar, gastropub Sports & Social Detroit, and Kid Rock’s “classic Detroit and Southern-influenced” Made in Detroit restaurant.

Free Press columnist John Gallagher contributed to this report.

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© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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