Howe, Yzerman-themed cranes helping with Joe Louis Arena's demo

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
A company that is removing metal panels from the Joe Louis Arena's exterior is using cranes adorned with the  names of two legendary Detroit Red Wings players, Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman.

Detroit — The names Howe and Yzerman are back at the Joe, at least for a little while.

A couple of cranes that have been painted in honor of the Detroit Red Wings greats are at the storied stadium to help with its demolition.

Both of the heavy hoisting machines have back ends painted red to look like Red Wings hockey jerseys. One has the name "Howe" and the number 9 in white on it; the other has "Yzerman" and the number 19. 

Howe, of course, refers to the legendary Gordie Howe. Howe died in June 2016 at the age of 88. He won four Stanley Cups, six scoring titles and six MVP awards. 

And Yzerman is for Steve Yzerman, who served two decades as Red Wings captain and No. 19, leading the team to three Stanley Cups. In April, he was named an executive vice president and general manager.

"It's a tribute to those two gentlemen," said Nick Straub, general manager of Homrich, the company hired to take down the metal panels from the arena's exterior. Based in Carleton, Homrich is demolition, remediation, and environmental contractor.

The company started the job about a week ago, according to city officials.

"It was put together by J.J. Curran," Straub said. "We're renting the cranes from them. It was done prior to us getting on the project, but it was done just for the work at the Joe."   

Based in Detroit, the J.J. Curran Crane Company has been renting crane equipment since 1950.

Company officials couldn't be immediately reached for comment Thursday.City officials said the removal of the panels at the Joe Louis Arena could take a couple of months. Once they're down, demolition of the remaining structure will begin, which may be at the end of July or the beginning of August, they said. Detroit-based Adamo Group was hired for the project. 

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.

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.

The Red Wings moved to the brand new Little Caesars Arena in September 2017.

The Joe 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.

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