Red Wings explain all the empty seats for LCA opener

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Detroit center Dylan Larkin and Minnesota left wing Marcus Foligno battle for the puck in the second period Thursday night.

Detroit -- It was the buzz all over social media on Thursday night, especially on Twitter.

Why so many empty seats for the first regular-season Red Wings game at brand-new Little Caesars Arena?

Fans weren't the only ones to notice. Tom Wilson, president and CEO of Olympia Entertainment, was taken aback, as well.

"It was really interesting, because everybody was in their seats when we dropped the puck, and you just expect that's going to happen," Wilson told The Detroit News on Friday afternoon. "Now, we do have clubs here, and people sometimes go back in the clubs to have something to eat and everything like that, then they come out when the period starts.

"But, boy, people really, really disappeared last night."

The reason: The novelty of the new arena.

Yes, of course, the game was sold out, and almost every ticket sold was accounted for at the gates.

Fans, though, flocked to the concourse -- littered with countless shops, bars, restaurants, artifacts and the like -- to check out the new digs. And, subsequently, that made for some poor optics on TV, as at times it seemed like less than half the seats were occupied.

"So that will change as you're here the second time and the third time, and a lot of those people in the lower level are season-ticket holders so they'll be back next week having seen everything," Wilson said. "So it won't be as pronounced next time.

"But last night, it was one of those things that got your attention, 'Where'd they go?'"

Wilson said the same thing happened for the arena's first event, the first of the Kid Rock concerts last month. About the time Kid Rock was ready to go on, the Metro Detroit rocker hesitated, because there were so many empty seats.

It was so startling, Wilson said he joked at the time, "Play a note! We gotta get people in here."

The arena is vast and impressive, but as such, there's a whole lot to see -- and you won't see it all after one visit, or even two.

"I think you'd have to come five or six times, and even then you will not have experienced everything here," Wilson said. "Around every corner, you sort of find something you haven't seen before."

Eventually you'll turn a corner, and stumble upon a hockey game.