Detroit — The Little Caesars Arena expected 20,000 people on Saturday for their ticketed open house tours for the public.
Heritage pieces from the Joe Louis Arena, a large technology presence and unique touches of Detroit stunned attendees just a few steps in.
Project manager of LCA Rochelle Collins stepped on the site two years ago and said it’s bittersweet now that the arena is complete.
“It is Detroit. Everything from the specially designed water casts to the brick walls that remind you of Michigan Avenue, the 313 Grill and so much more,” Collins said. “We’re very proud of the in between space we have made for people to access the restaurants and stores all the time, not just on game days. That way people can take part in the pregame activities and not have to go to the game.”
Collins said the hardest part of planning the arena was selling the plan to the citizens in the city.
“Making them understand that this benefits everyone. This creates opportunity...it not only strengthens or connects Midtown to downtown, but it strengthens the city of Detroit,” Collins said. “I think we are going to prove ourselves and prove to the city that this benefits everyone.”
LCA has logged up 600,000 hours of work by Detroit construction workers in the past two years and according to the District Detroit website, has hired more than 2,000 people in permanent positions – 61 percent of which are Detroit residents.
Many of the attendees were stunned upon arriving inside and seeing natural light flowing from the ceiling and many photo opportunities with jerseys and memorabilia.
“The seating is amazing. It has been such a great experience. The signage is also quite wonderful,” said Myrlin Moore of Detroit who attended the event with her family Yalanda Moore and Marla Leavells. “One thing I won’t miss about the Joe is those stairs. They were not worth it and we just walked right in here.”
Leavells said there was a lack in Pistons presence and most of the arena was attributed to the Red Wings new home.
“I wonder where all the Pistons stuff is,” she said. “They have huge posters up and that huge screen where you can virtually play with a basketball player but not as much as Red Wings.”
In August, Detroit activist Robert Davis said he planned on suing the city clerk’s office and the City Council for rejecting a petition of more than 8,000 signatures. The petition sought to overturn a City Council-approved ordinance authorizing $34.5 million in public funding for the Pistons move downtown.
Season ticket holder Joe Madonia, 69, said he had high expectations for the arena and after touring the newest edition of District Detroit, he was excited for this season.
“The special-designed manhole covers (in the entryways) have to be the coolest thing, but this seating is also much better,” Madonia said.
Allsion Biliti, 34, a resident of Macomb, said she also had high expectations but was shocked by the amount of technology incorporated into the space.
“From the large screen to the interactive screens from when you come in to the smaller screens up in the high seats, there’s so much,” Biliti said. “The parking garage sucked. It’s really bad.”
The countdown begins to Sept. 23 when the Wings open LCA with an exhibition game against Boston.