Nicknamed "The Joe", its most popular tenant is the Illitch-owned Detroit Red Wings, consistently named most valuable franchise in the National Hockey League by Financial World Magazine. The area surrounding the arena is now known as "Hockeytown" in tribute to the Detroit Red Wings and more than a dozen college-hockey events held annually at "The Joe."
Joe Louis Arena is also the exclusive site for world-class Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus. The World's Toughest Rodeo, the Tour of World Figure Skating Champions and college hockey championships. In 1994, The Joe, along with Cobo Arena hosted the nationally televised U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Joe Louis Arena sold-out concert events have included Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavoarotti.
|Image of the Joe Louis Arena by|
Cory Suppes of Ballparks.com
The arena was called the "Joe Louis Warehouse" when it opened in 1979 because it looks so vast and bleak inside, but when Mike and Marian Ilitch bought the team in 1982, they did some redecorating. There is an inviting concourse decorated with hockey artwork, for example.
The Red Wings' most eagerly anticipated tradition is throwing of an octopus on the ice during the playoffs. The bizarre fan ritual began back when only four NHL teams made the playoffs, and the eight legs symbolized the eight wins needed to win the Stanley Cup. Attendants are booed if they use a shovel to remove the octopus and cheered if they use their bare hands.
From the south, go north on I-75 to the exit for US 10. Exit southbound onto US 10 and go south for 1 mile. Take the Joe Louis exit, which leads to the Arena.
Joe Louis Arena history
* First regular-season game: Dec. 27, 1979, 3-2 loss to the Blues
* First goal: Brian Sutter, Blues
* March 24, 1992: Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux scores his 1,000th point, despite a Red Wings victory, 4-3.
Building Dimensions: 328'x550'x85' high. Approximately 12 million cubic feet. Floor Surface: Non-hockey = 120'x230'.
Dressing Rooms Eight rooms located on ground level on the south side of the arena.
Press Area: 128' long counter space located on the third level. Include facilities for live audio and television broadcasts.
Scoreboard: 18' center Sony Jumbotron video scoreboard; 8 computerized side boards on both sides of the arena showing out-of-town scores.
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
October 20, 2000 & October 13, 2006 - Joe Louis Arena opened in 1979, and is located downtown and sandwiched between a parking ramp, expressways on 2 sides, and the Detroit River. Despite its location, this building is totally segregated from anything else that downtown Detroit has to offer. The only way to get to the arena is by navigating a set of pedestrian walkways which lead you to the doors of the building... no lobby, no atrium, just doors to the concourse flung open to the cold air outside. The building is grey and nondescript, the pedestrian walkways and adjoining structures are grey and bland... greatfully, the area between the building and the river has been fixed up with a pleasant riverwalk. This by far is the nicest side of the building as the rest of the arena is surrounded by ugly ramps and bridges. Once you walk into the building (and step through the metal detector under the scowling gaze of a cadre of beefy security guards...ugggghhhh!), you walk into a wide concourse with very high ceilings, and a cornucopia of murals, banners, and memorabilia saluting Detroit hockey greats - the names Howe, Lindsay, Delvecchio, Sawchuk and Yzerman are everywhere... old black and white photos brought over from the old Olympia reminded us of similar photos which adorned the halls of Maple Leaf Gardens.
|Joe Louis Arena Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 10|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 3|
|Bonus: Octopus|| 2|
|Bonus: Hockeytown|| 1|
|Bonus: Joe Louis Statue|| 2|
|Total Score|| 51|
The team does a great job of organizing concessions.. every bit of wall space has a food stand, souvenir stands or memorabilia shops. Lines are short and quick. Of course Mike Ilitch's Little Caesars Pizza and subs are the highlighted fare.
The "obstructed view" seats in rows 25-27 were horrible - basically they were in a nook at the top of the building where the pitch of the balcony ended, so if you sat in those seats, you could see everything from the blue line on and that is it. Gratefully a kind usher let us sit in better seats which were unoccupied.
The Redwings have a season ticket base of over 16,000 seats, leaving less than 2000 seats available on a game to game basis. Furthermore, they package Redwings tickets with college hockey games to promote those games (i.e. buy a college 7 pack and you can choose 2 Redwings games of your choice). Ticket prices? Top ticket is $150, and the cheapest (not including the obstructed which they only have a few of) is $41..... $41 for a seat location comparable to Buffalo's 300 level III seats!
When we told people sitting around us that Buffalo's premium ticket was $75, and that comes with parking... that our 100 level season tickets are 18 rows off the glass and cost $38... oh and Sabrebuck rebates... the Detroiters were just flabbergasted, and really questioned how Buffalo people could not be kicking down the door to take advantage of the good deal, especially since our team has been competitive.
Overall we would have to say that this has been one of our WORST NHL arena experiences, and more closely represents the image of the bad old Detroit. This city has just opened a fabulous baseball stadium in Comerica Park, and right next door, beautiful Ford Field will be home to the Lions starting in 2002. Casinos are now open, Greektown is the new entertainment district, the area around Comerica Park is really cool and their downtown is finally starting to come back. The only thing saving this NHL venue is the "Hockeytown" theme mystique and the team's recent successes.
Hat Tricks, Assists, Penalties
Penalty (and game misconduct) - Those metal detectors. What a horrible way to greet your customers as they arrive! As we walked around the concourse before the game and walked past the various entrances, those things were constantly chirping.. people being detained..women were removing earrings and spilling purse contents onto tables. This is no way to treat the fans.
Hat Trick - Actually nothing to do with the arena itself, but rather the "Hockeytown Cafe", which is owned by the team. Ideally it should have been next to the arena, but it is located the other side of downtown right across from Comerica Park... the layout is great, consisting of a bar, restaurant, interactive games and a comedy club; and the outdoor marquee consists of a huge jumbotron video board and a times square style streaming information ticker... very impressive!
Go to Detroit, visit Comerica Park, or take in a Lions game, but AVOID this wretched place. We can certainly understand and feel the passion of these dedicated Redwings fans who snap up every available seat, and the tradition of one of the Original Six teams really comes alive here. But going against all of this is the cruddy neighborhood, the shabby building, and an NHL venue that is so far behind the curve compared to its peer facilities. We made the best of things, but between the metal detector and the wretched seats we were dealt, we have to say we were kind of soured to this place from the minute we parked our car to begin the evening. Our Sabres losing in OT was a fitting ending.
RED WINGS FACE UPCOMING DEADLINE ON ARENA
March 26, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
Detroit, Mich. - The ongoing saga of whether to renovate the Joe Louis Arena or build a new
home elsewhere in the city for the Detroit Red Wings has entered its version of hockey's third
period - and the team owner can force overtime by negotiating an extension on a lease with the
Mike Ilitch, the team's owner since 1982, has until June 30 to tell Detroit if he will modernize
the 30-year-old, city-owned arena or construct a new venue that likely would cost $200 million to
Talks have been ongoing for several years between the Ilitch organization and the quasi-public
Detroit Economic Growth Corp.
Even with the clock ticking, no offers are on the table, those involved say.
Adding spice to the drama is that the expiring Joe Louis lease - widely considered one of the
most team-friendly in all of professional sports - is part of the Cobo Arena master lease.
Cobo Center has been its own drama in recent weeks as debate rages over a plan to transfer the
city-owned venue to a regional authority, and the uncertainty that comes with a city government in a post-Kwame Kilpatrick state of mayoral flux through next year. The Cobo Center issue has added additional layers to the Joe Louis situation.
What happens with the lease affects both the $279 million Cobo expansion plan and the fate of
Joe Louis Arena.
The Ilitches have said very little about the lease negotiations and even less about their possible arena plans. However, organization spokeswoman Karen Cullen did offer a comment on the
present political instability in Detroit: "It's safe to say there are many factors that play a role in our due diligence on this project."
Cullen, vice president of corporate communications for Ilitch Holdings Inc., the central
business entity of Mike and Marian Ilitch's empire that includes the hockey team, the Detroit
Tigers and Little Caesars Pizza, has been the only person in the organization permitted to talk
publicly about the Joe Louis situation.
Meanwhile, June 30 nears and significant questions loom larger.
An immediate question is the Ilitches' role in the Cobo situation, which affects Joe Louis.
The city needs Ilitch-owned Olympia Entertainment to renegotiate its master lease for nearby
Joe Louis Arena, which includes language that gives Olympia say over any project that would
significantly impact Cobo Arena. Olympia manages both arenas, while the city runs Cobo Center.
It's believed the Ilitches want breathing room on a Joe Louis decision, delaying any choice on
renovation or a new hockey arena by a year or two.
The city and the Ilitches won't offer specifics on the negotiations.
There are no offers on the table for either the city or the Ilitches, said Brian Holdwick, the
DEGC's vice president of financial services.
Instead, the sides are debating points on what Holdwick termed "restructuring the lease."
The Joe Louis lease expires July 1, 2010, but the Ilitches must tell the city by June 30 if they
plan to renew.
The lease, first negotiated under Mayor Coleman Young after the Detroit Lions and Detroit
Pistons left for the suburbs, has drawn criticism, including from the Detroit City Council, that it tilts too far in favor of the Red Wings.
Denise Tolliver, deputy chief of staff for Council President Monica Conyers - who orchestrated
the effort to veto the Cobo authority deal - said her boss isn't going to speak about the Ilitch talks.
A potential wild card is the Cobo authority plan.
The city and the proposed authority would split negotiating responsibilities under the deal,
according to a Feb. 23 memo to the council from Irvin Corley Jr., director of the city's fiscal analysis division.
"If the Cobo Hall deal proceeds, the responsibility for negotiating with the Ilitch family will be a split responsibility," he wrote. "The authority would be responsible for negotiating the release of Cobo Arena from the existing lease, and the city would be responsible for negotiating any change as it related to Joe Louis Arena."
Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. vetoed the council's rejection of the authority proposal, and the council
has filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court to challenge the validity of the veto Ñ meaning
things stand in a sort of limbo.
Adding a third negotiating party could potentially add another layer of red tape in reaching a
new lease agreement - or it could mean nothing if the Ilitches opt for a new arena.
If a lease deal isn't reached, the Cobo expansion plan now under consideration is to use the
venue's Riverfront Ballroom for additional exhibit space - a fall-back option that hasn't generated enthusiasm.
Upgrading or replacing Cobo has been discussed for several years, with a variety of plans
floated to ensure the North American International Auto Show has enough room. Several
manufacturers have pulled out because of the down auto market, and others have complained
about Cobo's condition and size.
The Ilitches also face questions about financing a new arena amid the current economic crisis.
A delay bought by a lease extension would provide time for the national and local economies to
rebound; but even if forced to make a decision in June, the team has options.
One of them is financing a new venue through a combination of private money from the Ilitches
and taxpayer money through an extension of local hotel and car-rental taxes - the formula that
financed Comerica Park.
A new arena offers the team more revenue from additional suites and corporate sponsorships.
Debt financing by the team is iffy at best and has hampered projects elsewhere in the country.
Even if the Ilitches have the cash reserves to finance a new arena completely privately, it's
unclear they'd want to - they won't discuss it. Varieties of financing options exist and have been used for other Detroit venues.
"We've had several discussions (with the Ilitches) on what would be viable for the future,"
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said. "We're open to options."
Those talks have included financing options, but Ficano said he couldn't reveal details or say
what the county's preferred option is.
Any use of tax dollars to subsidize construction - either in the form of a direct levy or by
extension of current taxes - generates fierce criticism that it's nothing more than welfare for rich owners and players. (Crain's Detroit Business)
PISTONS, RED WINGS MAY SHARE NEW ARENA
January 21, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Detroit, Mich. - The Detroit News says the owners of the Red Wings and Pistons are discussing
the possibility of sharing a new arena.
Mike and Marian Ilitch, owners of the Red Wings, have not renewed their lease at Joe Louis Arena beyond this season, and face more than $10 million in structural repair at the arena if the team is to play there next season.
The Ilitches have been looking for a temporary home while they sort out, if, when, where and how they might build a new arena in downtown Detroit.
The Wings and Palace Sports and Entertainment, overseers of The Palace, have been working on a lease agreement for more than a year. The Ilitches toured The Palace in December 2008. The Palace submitted a five-year lease offer to the Ilitches, who made a counteroffer - presumably for fewer years.
In the meantime, Pistons owner Karen Davidson is reportedly considering selling the Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment. She already has had a conversation with NBA commissioner David Stern on the process and protocol for attracting potential buyers. Once she sells, there would be nothing keeping the Pistons at The Palace.
That has led to talk about the Ilitches making an offer to buy the Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment. The reports say while the Ilitches might be interested in The Palace, there is no interest in buying the Pistons.
February 25, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
The Detroit Red Wings have hired Tom Wilson to be president and CEO of a new firm created to either renovate the team's current home, Joe Louis Arena, or develop a new venue for the team. The firm, which will be owned by the Ilitch family, has not yet been named. Wilson was formerly CEO of the Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment. Wilson will oversee several Ilitch properties, including concert venues, the Motor City Casino and the Fox Theater. He also will be in charge of marketing for the Tigers and Red Wings.
DETROIT COUNTIES SQUARE OFF OVER TEAMS
March 18, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Detroit, Mich. - If Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants to bring the Pistons back to Detroit, Oakland
County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says that opens the bidding for his county to lure the Red Wings to the Palace of Auburn Hills.
The issue comes up at the Red Wings work to decide whether to build a new arena or renovate Joe Louis Arena. The team's lease expires in June.
"I don't like the idea," said Patterson. "In any sense, I call that poaching. I thought we're all supposed to be regional players but that's not developing good relationships when you deliberately" try and lure the Auburn Hills-based team to Detroit.
Even so, Patterson said he's ramping up efforts to move the Red Wings from Joe Louis Arena to the Pistons' home, The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Patterson said "we're opening negotiations this afternoon" and phoned Tom Wilson, the Pistons executive who recently joined Ilitch Holdings, the Wings' parent company and is the team's point person for finding a new area. Wilson didn't phone back, Patterson said.
Patterson said he could see the Wings playing at The Palace with the Pistons indefinitely, adding, "we'll take them out here for six years." Wings officials haven't ruled out a temporary move to the Palace as a new downtown arena is negotiated.
The flap began when Bing told a group of media executives he wants the Pistons to move back to the city in hopes that a new city arena would be constructed to hold both the Pistons and Red Wings.
May 13, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Mike Ilitch says the Detroit Red Wings probably will play next season at Joe Louis Arena. Ilitch
made the comments on a radio talk show in Detroit. The lease between the Wings and the city-owned Joe Louis Arena expires at the end of June. Ilitch's Olympia Entertainment last year informed the city of Detroit that it did not want another long-term lease for Joe Louis and Cobo Arena. A new arena is expected to cost as much as $400 million. Ilitch advised fans to "be patient." In the past, Ilitch has repeatedly said he would like to keep the Wings downtown.
July 1, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
The Detroit Red Wings and the city of Detroit have agreed to extend talks on the team's lease
of Joe Louis Arena, according to the Free Press. The team has said it will probably play next season at the venue. The current lease expired at the end of June, the newspaper reported. The team is investigating whether to build a new arena or join the NBA Pistons at The Palace in Auburn Hills.
ARENA FOR PISTONS, WINGS ESTIMATED AT $500 MILLION
October 7, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Detroit, Mich. - Mike Ilitch, owner of Detroit's Tigers and Red Wings, has submitted the
highest bid for purchase of the NBA Pistons from Palace Sports and Entertainment, according to the Detroit News. The undisclosed bid, thought to be more than $400 million, gives Ilitch a 30-day exclusive window to close the deal, according to the newspaper.
If successful, the purchase would make Ilitch the only person in America to own three top pro franchises. It would also give him a control of Detroit's entertainment venues. The Red Wings were already considering a new arena, the acquisition would mean the new venue would likely be built to accommodate both teams.
City of Detroit and Ilitch Holdings officials told the News they are bound by confidentially agreements not to talk about details of a possible new arena.
The newspaper said three locations are considered likely prospects to host the venue. One is a cluster of blocks west of the Fox Theatre complex, the Woodward Avenue headquarters for Ilitch Holdings Inc. The area stretches toward Grand Circus Park and Grand River, where the Ilitches have bought parcels through the years.
Another is a blighted stretch of the Cass Corridor, where there has been a series of high-priced land acquisitions. Local developer Joel Landy was involved in one of the deals and signed a confidentiality agreement, the newspaper reported.
The other rumored site is near the MotorCity Casino. It's unclear how much - if any - of that property is controlled by the Ilitches or the city.
If the sale were to include Palace Sports & Entertainment, which programs The Palace of Auburn Hills, DTE Energy Music Theatre and Meadow Brook Music Festival, it would give Ilitch control of Detroit's top concert venues.
In 2009, PS&E sold a reported 1.08 million tickets, according to Pollstar magazine, which tracks the concert industry. That made the company the No. 14 concert promoter in the world, and No. 8 in the U.S.
Ilitch's Olympia Entertainment, meanwhile, which books Joe Louis Arena, Cobo Arena, the Fox Theatre and the Masonic Temple, sold a reported 154,000 tickets in 2009, making it the world's No. 74 concert promoter, according to Pollstar.
Combining the two ventures would give Ilitch control of most of the area's concert venues.
ILITCH COMMITTED TO NEW ARENA
October 21, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Detroit, Mich. - The Detroit Free Press says Mike Ilitch is "definitely committed" to a new arena
in downtown Detroit. The newspaper quoted Tom Wilson, the Red Wings' officer in charge of developing the project.
Speaking before about 50 people at a Temple Israel Brotherhood breakfast in West Bloomfield, Wilson declined to discuss any details of talks that are under way between the Ilitch organization and representatives of Detroit Pistons owner Karen Davidson over buying the Pistons, the newspaper said.
But in an hour-long talk mostly devoted to anecdotes about Wilson's former boss, the late Bill Davidson, Wilson told the Free Press and the audience he believed a new sports arena downtown "can be transformational" for Detroit's entertainment scene.
The Ilitch-owned Detroit Red Wings are negotiating a new lease to continue playing temporarily in Joe Louis Arena. But Wilson called the Joe "old technology."
The Free Press said Wilson hinted that a new downtown arena could set a standard much as Davidson's Palace of Auburn Hills did when it opened in the 1980s.
Noting that fans today can get more replays from an iPhone app than from an arena screen, Wilson said, "You have to put a lot of technology in and anticipate what people are going to want." He added, "I think you're going to see an awful lot more technology in a new building."
NEW ARENA COULD EARN $5 MILLION ANNUALLY FOR RED WINGS
July 7, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Detroit, Mich. - Crain's Detroit Business says the Detroit Red Wings could see an additional $5
million to $8 million in new revenue for a couple of seasons, which would settle to about $5 million yearly at a modern arena that replaces Joe Louis Arena.
That's a casual estimate from University of Michigan sports business professor Rodney Fort that was given to Crain's.
"That smaller long-term result is more truly indicative of the level of revenue that The Joe simply can't generate for hockey due to its age (luxury suites, concessions and concourse attractions during the game)," he said. "The rest of the short-term bump is just novelty."
It's been two years since the Ilitch family declined to renew the Detroit Red Wings' lease at aging city-owned Joe Louis Arena, and a year since it expired, but Crain's says no new agreement is believed to be near.
The team has operated under undisclosed terms at the venue while the Ilitches continue to both negotiate a new lease and advance plans to build a modern arena elsewhere in the city - a strategic moved expected to generate millions in new income for the Red Wings through luxury suites and other amenities.
Neither the Ilitches nor the city will talk about the lease situation, citing a confidentiality agreement.
"We continue to work with the city as it relates to Joe Louis Arena, and as our organization has stated previously, it our desire is to build a new arena downtown," Karen Cullen, vice president of corporate relations for Ilitch Holdings Inc., told Crain's via email.
It's believed the Ilitches want a shorter deal at Joe Louis that would allow the team an easy exit so it can move to a new, modern arena that could be built on Ilitch-owned land in one of three speculated locations: the Foxtown area, between Grand River and Cass avenues south of I-75, or west of Woodward Avenue north of I-75.
A new hockey venue is estimated to cost $300 million to $400 million. The family has discussed potential public financing with the city and with Wayne County.
August 11, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
The recent inclusion of a Temple Street stop - an otherwise low-key location near condos and
vacant lots - as part of Detroit's Woodward Avenue light-rail project strongly suggests to Crain's Detroit Business that adjacent vacant land will be the site of a new arena for the Detroit Red Wings. The location has been speculated about for some time as a potential location for a replacement for Joe Louis Arena, and adding it to the rail project is expected to increase rail construction costs. Temple Street is among four stops added by the Detroit Department of Transportation to the nine-mile route plan at the request of private-sector consortium known as M1 Rail that has pledged money to the project, the city's lead contractor on the effort said. Crain's said M1 includes Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch. The Ilitch family has said it intends to build a new arena in the city to replace the aging and less lucrative city-owned Joe Louis, but they've declined to talk about locations. Foxtown and land between Grand River and Cass avenues have also been rumored as potential arena locations.
RED WINGS' COACH SUGGESTS STATE HELP ON ARENA
February 23, 2012
Copyright 2012 MediaVentures
Detroit, Mich. - Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock urged the state government to
support plans to build a new hockey arena in downtown Detroit and vaguely referred to a development perhaps connected to it - a mall, the Detroit News said.
"A new facility, no question," Babcock said on sports radio talk show, when asked if he preferred that the Wings continue to play at Joe Louis Arena or at a new arena.
"If you want the city to come back, you got to revitalize downtown. And a big part of that's going to be the new arena, and the mall and the stuff going around it," he said. "And that's very important. That's why we need the state to jump onside, and the sooner the better, if we're going to revitalize Michigan. It's got to start right here in Detroit."
Ilitch Holdings spokeswoman Karen Cullen said, "Our organization has been on record as stating we would like a new arena downtown."
Gov. Rick Snyder's campaign said before Babcock's comments that he preferred that private interests finance a new arena and that any state money should be loans with repayment guarantees.
Wings owner Mike Ilitch, billionaire founder of a pizza, sports and entertainment empire, has said for more than five years that he wants to build a downtown hockey arena. He has indicated that financing is one of the snags in constructing such a facility.
Ilitch received $115 million from the city of Detroit, Wayne County and corporate investors and paid the remaining $185 million when he built Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, in the 1990s. The state financed infrastructure improvements. Economic experts and a pollster speculate that Ilitch won't get as much public aid for an arena.
Babcock's reference to "the mall" feeds into speculation that a shopping center might be connected to an arena development plan Ð particularly in the swath of blighted and empty properties from Woodward Avenue to Cass near Temple. There has been a real estate buying frenzy in the area, which is several blocks north of the Fox Theatre, headquarters of Ilitch Holdings.
"Of course, everyone assumes this is where the new arena will be built, but now I'm hearing (developer Al Taubman) wants to build a mall next to the arena," Temple Bar owner George Boukas said in October 2010, after he rejected a bid to sell his establishment. The bar, at the corner of Temple and Cass, is in the middle of the land acquisitions.
A spokesman for Taubman said the developer was not working on mall plans for the area. Since 2008, at least 22 properties have been purchased or optioned 2008 by various entities. Some investors have paid as much as $650,000 for a single derelict property in an area where
the median annual household income is $8,317.
Metro Detroit real estate experts say the amount of land being accumulated in the area and the high sales prices likely mean someone is trying to amass enough property to build something big.