Red Wings' new home: Little Caesars Arena

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — The official name of the $627.5 million home of the Detroit Red Wings will be Little Caesars Arena.

Chris Illitch (right), president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, and Dave Scrivano, president and CEO of Little Caesars, unveil the name of the new Red Wings arena on Thursday in Detroit.

The name was unveiled Thursday at the site of the future arena just north of downtown, one day after a flurry of other downtown development news that could also bring Major League Soccer to Detroit and clear the way for a new high-rise on the vacant Hudson’s site on Woodward Avenue.

Little Caesars is the world’s largest carryout pizza chain. The brand is the foundation of the wildly successful entrepreneurial family led by Mike and Marian Ilitch, who continue to invest billions in Detroit.

One of those investments is the Detroit Red Wings, owned by Mike Ilitch.

The naming rights of the new venue is $120 million deal over 20 years. It essentially means one part of the Ilitch empire will pay another part of an Ilitch organization that is managing the new arena.

The arena is owned by the city’s Downtown Development Authority, but the Iltch’s Olympia Entertainment will run the venue.

“This is more than just about money,” said Chris Ilitch, the son of Mike and Marian, who runs the day-to-day operation of the family’s business. “This is our hometown. This is our legacy business, the first business my parents started back in 1959.”

Chris Ilitch, who is president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc., also pointed out the enormous advertising exposure it gives to Little Caesars.

“The company is at a point in its history that it’s literally exploding in growth around the world right now,” he said. “This platform, this brand, it will really help the company.”

The naming rights agreement paves the way for Little Caesars Arena branding on the roof of the venue, on the exterior, at entrances and at center ice. In addition, Little Caesars becomes the official Detroit Red Wings’ website and social media sponsor.

Scoring the naming rights of a professional sports venue is one of the most sought-after goals in corporate America. The cost for naming rights for National Hockey League venues is around $4 million a year, according to Sports Business Journal.

Patriarch Mike Ilitch owns the Red Wings and Detroit Tigers. His wife Marian owns MotorCity Casino Hotel. The two founded Little Caesars, which is headquartered in the Fox Theatre, a few blocks away from the new arena. A dazzling new Woodward Avenue headquarters for the global pizza chain also is being built.

The money from the naming rights could help the Ilitches pay off the $250 million in construction bonds that were sold by the state to build the venue.

The arena is expected to the economic spark to revive 45 blocks around the venue. Next to the arena is the future Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business. A hotel, stores and hundreds of apartments in new and currently empty buildings are planned.

Little Caesars Arena is slated to open in fall 2017.

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