Having had two hours to wander around the Red Wings’ new home earlier today, I’ve finally gotten an opportunity to put together some actual thoughts on Little Caesars Arena.
A new arena won’t save the Red Wings from the issues they face on the ice and the ticket prices at said new arena won’t win them any favors with the fanbase, either. I’m not excited about this season and Little Caesars Arena doesn’t change that. That said, it’s pretty easy to be excited about the venue itself.
I came in through the southwest entrance and the first thing I noticed is the ridiculous amount of natural light in the much-promoted Via concourse. I’m curious how that space will look at night but in the day it’s unlike any NHL arena I’ve been in.
The concourse doesn’t feel like an arena. It feels more like a mall. A large, open hallway with shops and food vendors on either side. Maybe during an actual event the “portals” leading to the arena bowl itself would be more prominent but during the tour that wasn’t the case.
The portals are significantly more prominent on the upper concourse, which is more sparsely-populated in general.
The Production Line statues from Joe Louis Arena have made their way to Little Caesars Arena but are no longer grouped together. I don’t love that but each statue now has a photo of the player with his jersey number as a backdrop, which does look really good.
The Via concourse includes custom manhole covers honoring people important to Red Wings and Pistons history. It’s a nice feature but not one that really impacts anything.
My favorite feature is probably the “Olympia” signage from Olympia Stadium having been re-mounted in the east concourse, right next to a giant mural of Gordie Howe.
In the arena bowl itself, the scoreboard is probably the biggest change. It’s just huge. I’m not sure if it’ll be overpowering or not but that’s my concern. I would have loved to see the arena bowl lit up like it would be during a game.
The lower bowl feels pretty standard. It’s clean. There are cupholders. I’m not sure that’s going to feel very different.
The upper bowl is going to take some getting used to. Accessing it from its own concourse should make traffic in the arena much more tolerable. The upper bowl is steep. There are actually handrails and I imagine they’ll get some use.
There are no bad seats in the arena. The last row of the upper bowl has a great view. The gondolas block the scoreboard but not the ice. The gondolas have a great view as well. You really do feel on top of the ice.
The thing that struck me most after the fact is that I was looking at the concourse and saying “This reminds me of Nationwide Arena.” and I was looking at the seating thinking “This is better than Amalie Arena.” At no point did I compare it to Joe Louis Arena. In all honesty, there really is no comparison.
As I noted on Twitter, “Mr. I” appears behind the nets on both the main sheet and the practice rink, so I wonder if that will be a permanent tribute.
Speaking of the practice rink, the team’s Stanley Cup banners from the Joe are hung there. There are new banners hanging over the ice at Little Caesars Arena, in some kind of box that makes them retractable for different events. They were retracted during today’s tour.
I overheard someone say that the Red Wings’ banners would be retracted for Pistons’ games and vice-versa but that seems a bit weird to me given their placement in the arena. The Red Wings’ banners are all on one side and the Pistons’ are on the other. If only one set was going to be displayed at a time, why not spread them out over the entire arena?
I don’t like the placement of the banners in general, but that’s a rant for another time.
Speaking of rants, a couple negatives…
Unless I missed it, Larry Aurie does not have a commemorative manhole cover. That’s the least the team could have done if they’re not going to give him a banner in the rafters.
Also, while the Via concourse is pretty incredible, the north and west sides of the arena are a bit more standard.
Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing a game played there to see how some of this works out in actual use.