PHOTO: Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch unveils ambitious plans for new downtown Detroit arena

Jul 20, 9:06 AM

On Sunday, Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch and his Ilitch organization shared their plans for a new Red Wings arena in downtown Detroit, just a stones throw away from where his other professional sports team - the Detroit Tigers - play at Commerica Park. Those plans include Bolshoy Dome-style lights to adorn the Red Wings' future home rink, a below ground level ice surface, and a "deconstructed" arena design. 

The $650 million project, roughly 60% of which will be financed from the public coffers despite the Ilitch family recouping all revenues from the publicly financed arena per the Detroit Free Press, extends beyond the rink itself, which is just part - albeit it a central part - of a broader entertainment district and downtown revitalization project. 

"We’re announcing to the community the formation of five new neighborhoods in this district," Ilitch told the Detroit Free Press on Thursday.

On Sunday, the Ilitch organization promised to deliver "tens of millions" in public infrastructure improvements and $200 million "in mixed-use development to occur concurrently with arena construction." They also actually delivered optimistic projections of the economic impact of the downtown arena, including "at least $1.8 billion in total economic impact, 8,300 construction and construction-related jobs and $1,100 permanent jobs". Also artist renderings!

It's worth noting that "the design [of the new rink] hasn't totally been finalized" as Kukla's Korner's George Malik explains, but the plan is for the playing surface to be 32 feet below ground level so as to make the building less of a behemoth. There will also be Bolshoy-style lights on top of the arena, per John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press:

The roof of the arena will be fashioned with the most modern programmable lighting so that different images can be produced for a given event. In the rendering provided by Olympia Development, the roof shows the Red Wings logo as it will on hockey nights. But the roof could be green for St. Patrick’s Day or something else for a concert by Kid Rock or Eminem, Ilitch said. He described the desired effect as “classy, not gaudy.”

The arena will also be "deconstructed" meaning that the "outer-ring functions" (bathrooms, concessions, concourses) will be pulled physically away from the inner core that houses the ice surface and the stands. The outer-ring and the body of the rink will be connected by a "glass covered streetscape". 

The project is the culmination of a generation-long bet for the Ilitch family in the neighborhood. Over the past 25 years the Ilitch family has purchased the Fox Theatre, the MotorCity Casino, the Hockeytown Cafe, and the baseball park - all properties that will be impacted by this latest, ambitious development project.

Feature photo courtesy of REUTERS/Rebecca Cook