Demo crews begin removing Joe Louis Arena's exterior panels

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
A contractor has started removing Joe Louis Arena's exterior metal panels as part of the stadium's demolition, which is expected to continue until late 2019 or early 2020.

Detroit — Motorists driving the Lodge into downtown may notice the Joe Louis Arena is a little more exposed.

A contractor has started removing the storied stadium's exterior metal panels as part of its demolition.

"It began last week and it's scheduled to go for the next couple of months," said Donna Rice, senior project manager for the Detroit Building Authority. "Once that's done, then what will be left standing will be the roof, the roof trusses, the steel columns and only the lower bowl of the Joe."

She said that's when crews will go into the next stage of demolition.

Rice said that could start near the end of July or the beginning of August.

The city owns the arena, which opened in 1979 and was home to the Detroit Red Wings as well as a familiar concert venue. It closed in the summer of 2017 before the Wings moved to Little Caesars Arena on Woodward.

Detroit-based Adamo Group was hired to demolish the city-owned building, but a subcontractor is removing the exterior panels.

It was named after legendary boxer and Detroit native Joe Louis. Dubbed the Brown Bomber, Louis was known for his knockout prowess and black heritage in a time of racial segregation. Louis was the world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949.

In March, city officials said the arena's demolition was set to begin in spring.

MoreDemolition of Detroit's Joe Louis Arena to begin in four weeks

Rice said demolition of the building's interior started a few weeks ago. 

Detroit-based Adamo Group was hired to demolish the building, but a subcontractor is removing the exterior panels.

The site is expected to be cleared by the end of the year or early 2020, according to officials. Demolition will cost the city about $10 million.

In December, the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Strategic Fund board approved a $10 million loan for demolition. The board also approved the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority’s request for a plan to capture local and school taxes to repay the loan.

Chipped paint adorns the front steps to the arena. The next stage of the demolition, beginning in late July or early August, will remove the roof,  roof trusses,  steel columns and the lower bowl.

Under an agreement struck during Detroit's Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the arena and its adjacent parking garage were given to bond insurer Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. The New York firm was a major creditor that lost $1.1 billion in the bankruptcy.

As part of the deal, Detroit is required to facilitate the arena's razing.

The company seeks to recoup its money by developing the site after the arena is demolished. It plans call for the parking garage to remain standing. 

Seats and other memorabilia from the stadium were auctioned to the public last year. The city received nearly a half-million dollars from the sale of the seats and other personal property.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez