Joe Louis Arena

Joe Louis Arena is a defunct arena in Downtown Detroit, currently undergoing demolition. Completed in 1979 at a cost of $57 million as a replacement for Olympia Stadium, it sits adjacent to Cobo Center on the bank of the Detroit River and was accessible by the Joe Louis Arena station on the Detroit People Mover. The venue is named after former heavyweight champion boxer Joe Louis, who grew up in Detroit.[1]

Joe Louis Arena
The Joe[1]
Address19 Steve Yzerman Drive[2]
LocationDetroit, Michigan[2]
Coordinates42°19′31″N 83°3′5″W
OwnerCity of Detroit[3]
OperatorOlympia Entertainment[4]
CapacityIce hockey:
19,275 (1979–1989)
19,875 (1989–1996)
19,983 (1996–2000)
19,995 (2000–2001)
20,058 (2001–2003)
20,066 (2003–2014)
20,027 (2014–2017)[5][6][7]
Basketball: 20,153[1]
Concerts: 21,666[1]
Broke groundMay 16, 1977[8][9]
OpenedDecember 12, 1979[1][9][10]
ClosedJuly 29, 2017[11][12]
DemolishedApril 4, 2019 – present
Construction costUS$57 million[9]
($197 million in 2018 dollars[13])
General contractorBarton Malow[1]
Detroit Red Wings (NHL) (1979–2017)
Detroit Pistons (NBA) (1985)
Detroit Drive (AFL) (1988–1993)
Detroit Turbos (MILL) (1989–1994)
Detroit Compuware Ambassadors (OHL) (1991–92)
Detroit Junior Red Wings (OHL) (1992–1995)
Detroit Rockers (NPSL) (1996–2000)

It was the home of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League and the second oldest NHL venue after Madison Square Garden until the start of the 2017–18 NHL season.[14][15] Joe Louis Arena is owned by the city of Detroit, and operated by Olympia Entertainment, a subsidiary of team owner Ilitch Holdings.[3][4]

In April 2017, the Red Wings hosted their final game at Joe Louis Arena; the venue was succeeded by Little Caesars Arena. The arena closed on July 29, 2017. Demolition started on April 4, 2019, with the site scheduled to be cleared by early 2020.[11][12][16]


The Red Wings had been playing at Olympia Stadium since 1927. However, by the late 1970s, the neighborhood around the Olympia had gradually deteriorated, especially after the 1967 Detroit riot.[9][17] In 1977, the Red Wings announced that they would be moving to a proposed arena in suburban Pontiac.[18] However, the city of Detroit countered with a proposal for a new riverfront arena in which they would charge the Red Wings much lower rent than what Pontiac was offering. The package also gave the team operational control of the arena, nearby Cobo Arena and parking lots. The Red Wings ultimately decided to stay in Detroit.[19][20]

The arena hosted its first event on December 12, 1979: a college basketball game between the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit.[10] The Red Wings played their first game at Joe Louis Arena on December 27, 1979, hosting the St. Louis Blues. The game ended in a 3–2 loss for the Red Wings.[21] The Red Wings first win at the arena came on December 30, 1979, where they defeated the New York Islanders 4–2.[22] Later that season, it hosted the 32nd NHL All-Star Game on February 5, 1980, which was played before a then-NHL record crowd of 21,002.[23] Joe Louis Arena was the site of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, which marked the first NHL Entry Draft to be held in the United States.[15] In 1980, the arena hosted the Republican National Convention that nominated Ronald Reagan as the Republican candidate for President of the United States.[24]

In 1990, color matrix boards were installed on the scoreboard; these were replaced by four Sony JumboTron video walls three years later, when the matrix boards were placed in the corners of the fascia. In 2006, LED video screens replaced the JumboTrons. The screens debuted November 22, 2006, when the Red Wings played the Vancouver Canucks. That same day, the arena's West Entrance was named the "Gordie Howe Entrance" in honor of the legendary Red Wing player, and a bronze statue of Howe was placed inside the entrance. Joe Louis Arena houses 86 premium suites.[25] In 2008, the arena introduced the Comerica Bank Legend's Club, a 181-person private seating location in the arena's southeast corner.[14]

Replacement and demolition

On July 20, 2014, following the July 2013 approval of a $650 million project to build a new sports and entertainment district in Downtown Detroit,[26][27] Christopher Ilitch unveiled designs for a new arena near Comerica Park and Ford Field which was completed in 2017 and succeeded Joe Louis Arena as the home of the Red Wings.[28] On October 16, 2014, lawyers involved in the ongoing Detroit bankruptcy case disclosed in court that after demolition, which will be paid for by the city and state, the land on which the arena stands, along with an adjacent parking lot, will be transferred to the Financial Guaranty Insurance Company (FGIC), a bond insurer with a $1 billion claim against the city.[29]

The Red Wings' final game at Joe Louis Arena was played on April 9, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils. The final game at the arena also served as then Red Wings' captain Henrik Zetterberg's 1,000th game. The Red Wings won 4–1, the final goal in the arena's history coming from Red Wings forward Riley Sheahan. It was the second of two he scored, which were also the only goals he scored at all during the 2016–17 season.[30][31] The last ticketed event held was a WWE Live event, held on July 29, 2017.[11][12] Demolition of the interior of the arena started on April 4, 2019. Demolition on the exterior commenced on June 2, 2019, both being done by the Adamo Group. Due to the arena's proximity to the Cobo Center, it is being dismantled traditionally rather than imploded.

Other tenants and events

In 1995, the Detroit Junior Red Wings won the Ontario Hockey League's J. Ross Robertson Cup, defeating the Guelph Storm.[32]

Joe Louis Arena hosted college hockey events as part of College Hockey at The Joe, the Great Lakes Invitational, and the Big Ten Conference hockey tournament in 2015 and 2017.[33]

The Detroit Pistons used the arena for Game 5 of their 1984 playoff series against the New York Knicks when the Pontiac Silverdome was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict.[10][34] In the game, Pistons star Isiah Thomas scored 16 points in the final 1:34 of regulation to send the game into overtime before the Pistons lost.[10][34] The Pistons were forced to return to Joe Louis Arena for 15 games during the 1984–85 season, after the roof of the Silverdome collapsed during a snowstorm.[10]

The Red Wings hosted the Stanley Cup Finals at the arena six times (1995, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008, and 2009). Two of their four Stanley Cup championships were clinched at Joe Louis Arena in 1997 and 2002.[1][15][35]

Joe Louis Arena was the site of the decisive Game 5 of the 2006 WNBA Finals between the Sacramento Monarchs and Detroit Shock on September 9, due to The Palace of Auburn Hills, the Shock's usual home arena, being used for a Mariah Carey concert on the same day. The Shock won the game 80–75 to clinch the championship.[10][36]

Former Arena Football League team the Detroit Drive also had success during their time at the arena, playing in six consecutive ArenaBowls from 1988 to 1993 and winning four of them. Four of the games (ArenaBowl III, ArenaBowl IV, ArenaBowl V and ArenaBowl VII) were played in Joe Louis Arena.[36][37][38][39][40][41][42]

Joe Louis Arena hosted the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, best known for the pre-competition attack on Nancy Kerrigan by associates of Tonya Harding.[43] In addition, Joe Louis Arena was the site of the 2013 edition of the Skate America figure skating competition.[44]

On May 7, 2015, it was announced that the Horizon League Men's Basketball Tournament would be held in Detroit beginning in 2016 under a five-year deal; the 2016 and 2017 tournaments were held at Joe Louis Arena.[45]

Joe Louis Arena was also a concert venue. Until the Palace opened in 1988, Joe Louis Arena was Michigan's largest indoor arena for concerts.[46] The first concert to take place there occurred on February 17, 1980, in which Max Webster opened for the Canadian rock group Rush.[47] This venue was used for the Alice Cooper concert film 'The Nightmare Returns' in 1987. The last concert at the venue was Summer Jamz 20! on July 23, 2017.[48]


  1. "Joe Louis Arena History". Detroit Red Wings. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  2. "Arena Central". Detroit Red Wings. Archived from the original on July 1, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  3. Reindl, JC (February 3, 2018). "Demolition countdown begins for Detroit's Joe Louis Arena". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  4. "About Olympia Entertainment". Olympia Entertainment. Archived from the original on August 11, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  5. Detroit Red Wings 2014-15 Media Guide (PDF). National Hockey League. p. 289. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  6. Detroit Red Wings 2015-16 Media Guide (PDF). National Hockey League. p. 291. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  7. Detroit Red Wings 2016-17 Media Guide (PDF). National Hockey League. p. 294. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  8. "Begin Work on Stadium". The Ludington Daily News. UPI. May 17, 1977. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  9. Krupa, Greg (October 17, 2016). "The Final Period Begins for Joe Louis Arena". The Detroit News. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  10. Regner, Arthur J. (March 6, 2017). "Basketball at the Joe: quality over quantity". Detroit Red Wings. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  11. Durr, Matt (July 28, 2017). "Brock Lesnar wrestling in rare WWE match Saturday in Detroit". MLive. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  12. Durr, Matt (July 30, 2017). "WWE superstars shine in farewell event at Joe Louis Arena". MLive. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  13. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  14. Wojnowski, Bob (August 10, 2010). "Competitive Spirit Makes Mike Ilitch Perfect Fit for Pistons". The Detroit News. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  15. Kramer, Jon (April 7, 2017). "A Farewell to Joe Louis Arena - Stats & Info". Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  16. Williams, Candice (December 18, 2018). "State approves $10M loan for Joe Louis Arena demolition". The Detroit News. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  17. Lee, Ardelia (July 15, 2016). "A Great Arena On Grand River That's Now Gone: The Story Of Detroit's Olympia Stadium". Daily Detroit. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  18. "Red Wings Announce Move to Pontiac, Mich". The New York Times. Associated Press. April 2, 1977. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  19. Seidel, Jeff (April 6, 2017). "Joe Louis Arena: Saying good-bye to the heart of Hockeytown". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  20. Henderson, Tom (September 10, 2017). "Of Olympia, Joe Louis Arena and a near-miss with history". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  21. Khan, Ansar (December 26, 2009). "Red Wings Celebrate 30th Anniversary of Joe Louis Arena". MLive. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  22. "Relive first Red Wings game, Red Wings win, concert at Joe Louis Arena". Detroit Free Press. April 8, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  23. "NHL All-Star Game Historical Summaries - 1980". Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  24. "Best moments in Joe Louis Arena history: No. 6". Detroit Free Press. April 2, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  25. "Joe Louis Arena". Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  26. Muller, David (July 24, 2013). "$650 million Detroit Red Wings arena project clears another public financing hurdle". MLive. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
  27. Shea, Bill (June 19, 2013). "DDA, Red Wings unveil $650 million arena and entertainment complex". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  28. Shea, Bill (July 20, 2014). "Detroit Rink City: Ilitches' grand plan to supersize the entertainment district". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved September 21, 2014.
  29. AlHajal, Khalil (October 16, 2014). "Detroit bankruptcy deal: Joe Louis Arena site to go to creditor for hotel development". MLive. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  30. Savage, Brendan (April 9, 2017). "Watch Red Wings' Riley Sheahan end 79-game drought with first goal". MLive. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  31. Sipple, George (April 9, 2017). "What slump? Riley Sheahan scores two goals in Joe Louis Arena finale". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  32. "Farewell to the Joe: OHL memories abound". Ontario Hockey League. December 4, 2016. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  33. Sipple, George (September 24, 2014). "New Detroit Arena Will Be in Mix to Host Many Events". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  34. "Best moments in Joe Louis Arena history: No. 10". Detroit Free Press. March 29, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  35. Kuc, Chris (March 8, 2017). "Ode to The Joe: Detroit's venerable Joe Louis Arena set for its last hurrah". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  36. "Best moments in Joe Louis Arena history: Nos. 11-20". Detroit Free Press. March 28, 2017. Retrieved December 22, 2018.
  37. "ArenaBowl 88". Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  38. "ArenaBowl 89". Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  39. "ArenaBowl 90". Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  40. "ArenaBowl 91". Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  41. "ArenaBowl 92". Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  42. "ArenaBowl 93". Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  43. Brand-Williams, Oralandar (October 20, 2013). "Kerrigan and Harding: Biggest story of '94 Olympics ties to The Joe". The Detroit News. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  44. "Detroit hosting 2013 Skate America at Joe Louis Arena". March 31, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  45. Paul, Tony (May 7, 2015). "Moving Horizon League tourney to Detroit is all about branding". The Detroit News. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  46. Graham, Adam (April 6, 2017). "Joe Louis Arena handled concerts like a champ". The Detroit News. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  47. Manzullo, Brian (January 19, 2017). "Here's who performed the first concert at each Detroit sports venue". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  48. Graff, Gary (July 19, 2017). "Joe Louis ends concert history with Summer Jamz 20!". The Oakland Press. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
Events and tenants
Preceded by
Detroit Olympia
Home of the Detroit Red Wings
Succeeded by
Little Caesars Arena
Preceded by
Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
Host of the NHL All-Star Game
Succeeded by
The Forum
Preceded by
Olympic Center
Host of the Frozen Four
Succeeded by
Providence Civic Center
Preceded by
Providence Civic Center
Host of the Frozen Four
Succeeded by
Olympic Center
Preceded by
Saint Paul Civic Center
Host of the Frozen Four
Succeeded by
Saint Paul Civic Center
Preceded by
Madison Square Garden
Home of the Royal Rumble
Succeeded by
Philips Arena
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