All of a sudden on Wednesday afternoon, the Detroit Red Wings’ once seemingly stagnant plans for a new arena received a huge, unexpected boost forward.
A $650 million dollar project to build a new arena, shopping district and office area was approved by Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority, clearing the way for a previous agreement with Ilitch Holdings to finally move forward. The new complex will share space adjacent to Comerica Park and Ford Field, creating an impressive sports compound just off Woodward Avenue.
As bittersweet as replacing Joe Louis Arena might be, finally, with this news, folks can start to dream about what the Red Wings’ new home might look like. Before all the wild sketches take shape, though, Detroit’s brass must take care to remember important slices of their past when considering proposals for the future.
The new arena, whatever it shall be named, should pull from the Red Wings’ rich stadium history. Basic design should resemble the classic Olympia Stadium as a whole, while the interior should pull from Joe Louis Arena, with memorable styles like red seats with black trim and the classic, whaling goal horn making the move across Detroit with the team.
Mixing old with new and preserving tradition has been important for other members of the Original Six in the midst of stadium redesigns. The United Center, TD Banknorth Garden, the Bell Centre and the Air Canada Center play heavily off designs of their predecessors, both in structure and feel. The Blackhawks use the same horn and organ as in Chicago Stadium, the Bruins’ seats are the familiar mustard yellow from Boston Garden and the Canadiens use the same siren to mark the end of periods as they did in the Montreal Forum.
Most other hockey teams don’t enjoy the rich history that the founding fathers of the game do, so it’s important for all of them to sprinkle reminders of a proud past in with more modern amenities. In Detroit, there’s already been a grassroots movement to return the features of the Olympia in a new stadium. Ironically enough, those responsible for this informal proposal almost nailed the new reported location and plan to include residences and retail space, as well. If nothing else, this particular idea shows that it’s possible to effectively mix the old and the new in functional fashion.
When the project moves forward more and additional planning begins, the Red Wings’ history should not be forgotten along the way. Adding simple elements from the past in would allow generations of fans to remember yesteryear without lamenting what they lost. It will be hard for many to let Joe Louis Arena go when the time comes, but it would be much easier to accept if there was a way to remember the old rink.
With news of jobs, additional redevelopment and new business, Wednesday was a good day for Detroit as a whole and not just the Red Wings. That’s why this project needs to become reality sooner rather than later. Within all the new, however, future designers must be careful to remember rich hockey history.
If you’re the next member of the Original Six looking for an address change, that should be the major prerequisite during the beginning of any stadium redevelopment proposals.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax