Are the Detroit Red Wings next in line for a new arena?

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Before anyone freaks out, no, there are no plans for the Detroit Red Wings to leave the Motor City.  With the announcement coming recently that the New York Islanders are moving into the new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York in 2015, I began to wonder how long will it be until the Red Wings get a new arena?

There have been multiple reports that owner Mike Illitch wants to build a new arena. In May, he hired a pair of architects to design a new arena.  Given that Joe Louis Arena has been used by the Red Wings since it opened in 1979, it’s hard to blame Illitch for wanting a new venue for his team.

More on the design can be found here.

Personally, I would love a new arena for the Red Wings. As mentioned earlier, the Joe has been around since 1979. I was born in 1988, and no major renovations have been done in my recent memory. I have seen footage of the inside of other stadiums (HP Pavilion in San Jose, CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, to name a few), and I realize how outdated the Joe has become.

Keep in mind that the Joe is not the oldest operating NHL Arena. That title goes to the home of the New York Rangers; the fourth edition of Madison Square Gardens, which opened in 1968. The next oldest is Nassau Coliseum, which is the current home for the Islanders, although not for much longer, and it opened in 1972. Then you have Rexall Place in Edmonton, the home of the Edmonton Oilers. Rexall opened in 1974. For the record, the Oilers are expected to move to into a new arena for 2014.

After the Joe, Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary is the only other NHL arena built before 1990.

The new arena is expected to seat around 18,000 people. The Joe currently seats 20,066, trailing only the Bell Centre in Montreal. I would expect the projected number of 18,000 seats to increase closer to between 19,000 and 20,000, given that the Joe sells out almost every night.

A popular choice for a design is one that was similar to Olympia; a red hockey barn. Old school style hockey barns are few and far between these days. The only one that I know of is Yost Ice Arena at the University of Michigan. It will ultimately be up to Illitch if he wants the new arena to have an old school look, or if why wants to show off a shiny new toy to the city of Detroit and the rest of the NHL.

Personally, I’m not worried about exterior design. It’s what will be on the inside that will count. This includes, but is not limited to, the concourses, concession stands, merchandise shops, the seating, luxury boxes, press boxes, and the restrooms.

Speaking of restrooms, while trying to keep this as G-rated as possible, I have gone to use the men’s room at the Joe and I’m not very comfortable using the trough urinal that has no dividers. That leaves me either to wait for a stall to open up or squeeze in between two men and not worry about…well, gentlemen, you get the picture. Ladies, I won’t go into any greater detail. The truth is, most of us guys like our privacy when going to the bathroom.

Another question is will a basketball court be put in? That was more common when the Illitch family was in the running to purchase the Detroit Pistons. However, the new arena having a basketball court would likely only occur if the Pistons were looking to move out of the Palace of Auburn Hills.

In closing, while I have loved going to the Joe, the time has come for the Red Wings to have a new home built. When that happens, nobody really knows. It probably won’t be until at least 2015, which would mark 36 years of hockey at Joe Louis Arena. The one thing fans can hope for the most is that the Red Wings can fill the rafters with banners at the new arena just like they did at the Joe and Olympia.


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