Future Red Wings home on track for Sept. 2017 opening

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Construction on the future home of the Detroit Red Wings is in full gear now and the goal of opening in September 2017 is on track, officials for the team owners said Thursday.

The spot where center ice will be, 40 feet below street level, is still dirt surrounded by towering steel frames of the state-of-the-art events center. The $627 million structure is being built along Woodward just north of downtown. Some 2,400 pieces of the structural steel have been placed and foundation concrete will be finished in a matter of weeks, said Sean Hollister, senior construction manager at Barton Malow, Hunt and White, who is overseeing construction.

The first pieces of the roof could be installed In March, Hollister said. “We’ve been lucky with the weather and we’ve been working really hard.”

Work continues six days a week, with more than 200 workers on the site daily. Of the $300 million in contracts for the arena awarded so far, $197 million has gone to businesses based or headquartered in Detroit, officials said Thursday.

As part of the deal between the city and Olympia Development of Michigan (the real estate arm of the Ilitches, the Wings’ owners), at least 30 percent of the businesses involved in the arena construction must be Detroit-based. Earlier this week, Olympia officials said at least 38.9 percent of the work is being done by city residents.

Last year, the cost of the arena jumped to $627 million, $177 million more than the original estimate, as the Ilitches continues to add major upgrades. Some of those changes to the 20,000-seat arena include a large LED screen in the outdoor public space, a practice rink that can be used for amateur games, and additional video and sound capabilities.

Money for the new upgrades is not coming from public taxpayer money but through private funding. The original $450 million estimate to build the venue is being partially paid by $250 million in bonds backed by taxpayer money. Any additional costs beyond the $450 million will come through private financing.

The $627 million price tag may be not the ultimate construction cost because the Ilitch family continues to explore potential changes, Tom Wilson, president and CEO of Olympia Entertainment, said in an earlier interview.

The arena sits in the middle of nearly 13 acres, located west of Woodward and east of Clifford, with Henry to the south and Sproat to the north.

The venue is the culmination of more than 15 years of planning by Wings’ owner Mike Ilitch to build a cutting-edge arena. It is expected to be the economic spark that will overhaul the surrounding 45 blocks into an area filled with new residents, offices and retail.

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