By CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Sports Editor
Almost all of us have grown up with Joe Louis Arena as the home of the Detroit Red Wings. Pretty soon, the arena we have all grown up with, having seen four Stanley Cup Championships among many other events and concerts, will be empty.
With the announcement of a new planned arena and entertainment complex by Mike Ilitch last week, the Red Wings could be in for a new home very soon. The project is expected to cost $650 million, but bring in $1.8 billion in economic impact.
Over 5,500 jobs will come from the construction project, and 8,300 new positions will be created from the entire project all-together. Along with the entertainment complex, a retail, office, and residential area will be created.
What’s not decided is the place where the district and arena will be built and what is going to happen to Joe Louis Arena.
The Joe is city-owned so once the Red Wings go, there really won’t be a purpose for the 33-year old building. So what could go in such an odd space that is basically bounded by a river, a parking lot, roads and freeways and a convention center?
Easy, you add on to the convention center. So many convention centers across the United States have hotels connected, or close to them. Detroit does have the Marriott at the Renaissance Center just down Jefferson Ave, which is the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere.
It’s just not attached to Cobo Center though. I’m not saying to build more and more hotels so that the city is filled with them, but Detroit would become a bigger destination for conventions with a world-class hotel linking to Cobo.
Among the cities that have hotels linked or within one block of their convention centers include Boston, Tampa, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Diego, San Jose, and New Orleans, just to name a few.
I’ll certainly miss the Joe, growing up, seeing my first ever Red Wings game there, becoming the fan I am today, because of this arena.
On the other side of things, I’m very excited to have a new arena, state-of-the-art, entertainment complex that can host events of all kinds from concerts to sporting events. Where is it going though, no one knows still.
Speculation is going to be all over, but there are a few spots that could be chosen. Right behind the Fox Theatre we all call the parking lot desert, or just north of I-75 along Woodward, also many empty lots.
You can go back and forth on what spot is the best, but if he intends on building an arena district that includes retail, offices, and residential, the best spot is north of I-75 in the empty barren space between Woodward and Cass Ave.
Two buildings currently sit empty, very tall buildings at that, right near the spot that Ilitch could be looking at to build on. The parcels of land have changed hands over the years, but none have been linked to Ilitch. Between Woodward Ave. and Park Ave. along with Temple St. and Sibley St. is the area that is being looked at.
In that area, only three buildings are standing; the rest is just empty space. The two large buildings border both sides of Sproat st., in between Temple and Sibley, along Park Ave. They are the former Hotel Eddystone and the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center.
Hotel Eddystone never had a great life, in fact it went broke not long after it opened because of the hotel boom in Detroit along with the Great Depression. There isn’t much history on the Harbor Light Center, but both are high-rise buildings, 13 stories tall.
If Ilitch does indeed keep his promise on creating such a great entertainment district, encompassing retail, residential, and office space, along with a multi-purpose arena, this is the best spot. This could be the key to the lock, that links Midtown and Downtown for many years to come.