Olympia Entertainment CEO Tom Wilson never expected to open another new stadium this soon. But there he was Monday night, helping pull the cover off a 30,000-piece LEGO model of Little Caesars Arena.
“This is a bit of a surprise, but you know they’ve been working on this awhile,” he said, laughing and relating how LEGOLAND, a year ago, had built a smaller model of the Fox Theatre. “Everybody just looked at it and said ‘This is marvelous.’ But now, this building, it’s got to be impossible, but somehow they’ve done it. It’s huge.”
The replica arena, by LEGOLAND Discovery Center of Auburn Hills, was unveiled Monday night between the first and second periods of the Detroit Red Wings-Carolina Hurricanes game. It debuted in its temporary home in the northeast corner of the stadium concourse, near the Gordie Howe statue and the Chevrolet entrance.
And huge it is. It’s 6 feet long, contains 30,000 bricks, more than 1,000 windows and more than 600 LEGO Minifigures. It’s lit from the inside, and a cutaway view allows a view of a Minifig hockey game on the playing surface. It includes amenities inside and out — restaurants, shops, signage and more. It celebrates the Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons, and once relocated for permanent display at LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Auburn Hills, it will sport interchangeable playing surfaces, allowing both the Red Wings and the Pistons to play.
But the hardest part of the project? That was the curved exterior of the arena portion of the structure and its domed roof, said Clint Parry, LEGOLAND master builder.
“It was challenging. LEGO is largely rectangular. They do have a few rounded pieces, but, for the most part, everything is very square. Making those square pieces give the appearance of rounded edges is what’s most challenging,” Parry said.
He said he tried to recreate as many features as possible out of LEGO, working with the Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment to get accurate logos on the inside and outside of the building.
“This particular model was about 60 hours of design time, working on the computer and in real life, and just building small-scale versions.” Parry said. “When it came time to build the full model, it was over a hundred hours of construction.” All by Parry, and all with stock LEGO pieces. No special bricks were created. Every one of the 30,000 pieces can be bought at retail.
“Everything we use is freely, commercially available. It’s anything that anybody could potentially buy (in) a box of LEGO at home and recreate. We just have the ability to order them direct from the factory, so I tend to get them in quantities that are a little hard to come by for the average person.”
But what if it was a kit? What would a 30,000-piece model of Little Caesars Arena cost if it was a boxed set available at retail?
“If you were to buy a kit, it would probably cost in the neighborhood of $3,000,” Parry said.
Parry said the construction of Little Caesars Arena was a logical next step for MINILAND Detroit, a section of LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Auburn Hills that already contains models of Ford Field, Comerica Park and other landmark Detroit structures all rendered in LEGO form. “It just made sense to round off the collection,” he said. The LEGO LCA will stay at its temporary home for the next month, then it will join the other stadiums in Auburn Hills.
What about those controversial red seats? Red or black? Parry laughed.
“The seats are red right now. It takes a while to get the bricks from the factory," he said. "So they’ll probably be red for a little while. But we’ll look into changing them to black to match the real stadium.”