(Photo: Max Ortiz, The Detroit News)
Louis Aguilar, The Detroit News 7:50 p.m. EDT August 4, 2016
Under a blistering August sun, the last piece of structural steel was lowered into place Thursday at Little Caesars Arena, future home ice of the Detroit Red Wings.
The “topping out” ceremony — a tradition believed to have been started by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago — was attended by proud members of Midwest Steel and Ironworkers Local 25. The workers hooted in good cheer as the steel beam, which had an American flag and an evergreen tree placed on it, completed the framework of the roof.
More than 7,500 pieces of steel have gone into the structure since October, officials said. The $627 million, 20,000-seat venue rising along Woodward just north of downtown is expected to open in September 2017.
Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc. praised the swift, steady work of the iron and steel workers. “I look out my office window ... every day and see these guys crawling all over this thing to pull it together. It’s amazing,” said Ilitch, whose office is at the nearby Fox Theatre building. Ilitch Holdings provides professional services to the 10 companies started by Christoper Ilitch’s parents, Mike and Marian Ilitch. The businesses include the global Little Caesars pizza chain and two professional sports teams, the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers.
Little Caesars Arena is expected to be the catalyst for an ambitious development plan called “The District Detroit,” which aims to transform a 50-block area into an upscale, densely populated area filled with new shops, homes, green spaces, retail and others businesses. The area covers some of the northern edge of downtown near Grand Circus Park as well as Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, and the Cass Corridor neighborhood.
In February, Olympia unveiled plans for a new hotel, about 150 residential units, retail, offices, and a parking garage that will be built adjacent to the arena.
Last month, construction work began on the Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business, the $50 million school that will be built just north of Little Ceasars Arena. The Ilitch’s Olympia Development of Michigan is also exploring building student housing near the business school. And the Detroit Medical Center is in talks with Olympia about a nearby new sports medicine building.
Site work has also begun on Little Caesars Global Resource Center, the new nine-story home of the pizza chain, on Woodward, just south of the Fox Theatre.
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