Little Caesars Arena digs self off polluted soil list

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Little Caesars Arena avoided the problem of toxic vapors even though it was initially among more than 4,000 sites the state of Michigan identified as having a potential issue.

When Olympia Entertainment Inc. decided to build the $863 million arena near Detroit’s Midtown area, state officials required the Ilitch family-owned company to clean up the contaminated soil during the construction.

Removing the tainted soil was important because, unlike most arenas, Little Caesars’ main floor and lower bowl of seats were dug 37 feet into the ground.

Toxic vapor tests lag for thousands of Michigan sites

State DEQ at first murky on number of vapor evacuees

An environmental assessment submitted to the state in 2014 showed that several “polynuclear aromatics, metals and petroleum-related volatile organic compounds” were found at levels higher than they should be in soil samples, said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Tiffany Brown.

The company removed the polluted soil, which is common at large construction projects in cities, said Brett McWethy, a spokesman for Olympia Entertainment Inc.

“As is common with such large-scale, urban projects, construction included the comprehensive removal of existing fill from the property,” McWethy said. “This process was fully documented in previous filings with the Department of Environmental Quality, and the successful removal and remediation was certified by thorough lab testing, which was also submitted and verified by DEQ.”

The state DEQ took the arena project off of its list after the contaminated soil was removed.

“Based on the actual construction of the arena, the limited depth and extent of the detected contaminants, and the overall amount of soil which was excavated during construction, the department is currently not aware of any vapor intrusion at the site,” Brown said.

The 20,000-plus-seat arena has been operating for five months, hosting concerts and sporting events including the home games of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons, since opening in September.