We end 2016 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Arena Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #1: Little Caesars Arena.
If nothing at all had been added to Little Caesars Arena, its development would have still been a major story in 2016. Slated as the new home of the Detroit Red Wings, the venue is expected to feature all of the latest modern amenities for the fan and player experience.
The attention to detail with its modern design, combined with its touted status as the anchor of a large-scale redevelopment in downtown Detroit, made Little Caesars Arena a notable story. And that was despite the fact that it is not slated to open until 2017.
However, the vision for Little Caesars Arena took a new shape in 2016, with the most notable change of course being the addition of the Detroit Pistons. If the Pistons follow through with a proposed move to the arena, it will not only mark the first time in decades that all four of Detroit’s major sports franchises have played within the city’s limits, but will allow Little Caesars Arena to become a breakthrough venue in two sports.
Already under construction when the year began, the venue’s identity took shape when Little Caesars—the pizza chain that is a holding of the Illitch family, like the Red Wings and arena operator Olympia Entertainment—signed on in April as the venue’s naming rights partner. Weeks following that announcement, we noted in a preview that the arena could have some features that are innovative among NHL arenas.
The arena’s design would allow it to host non-hockey events on a routine basis, with a portion of the concourse doubling as an event space. Plans were also in place at that point for gondola seating, which consists of sections that are suspended from the arena’s rafters to offer the highest viewpoint possible. Plans were also moving forward for a below-ground practice rink, and an outdoor plaza that included a videoboard.
That, combined with plans to redevelop 50 surrounding blocks through a plan known as The District Detroit, made Little Caesars notable. All the while, however, plans were in the works to land the Pistons, who have played at the Palace of Auburn Hills since 1988.
At the beginning of the NBA season, Pistons owner Tom Gores was not shy about acknowledging the team’s increasingly evident intent to move to Little Caesars Arena by next fall. By the week of Thanksgiving, Gores was part of an announcement that the Pistons had come to terms on an agreement to play at Little Caesars Arena.
Over the coming months, various layers of approval—including decisions from the NBA, Detroit Downtown Development Authority, and City of Detroit—will be needed in order to finalize the move. However, if it goes through as expected, downtown Detroit will host two of its four major franchises at a new arena next fall.
Image courtesy Olympia Entertainment.
Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2016 List: