Red Wings arena site goes silent 3 months after groundbreaking

Photos by Steve Neavling
Photos by Steve Neavling

More than three months after the glitzy groundbreaking ceremony for the new Red Wing arena, crews have yet to actually break ground.

In fact, the 13-acre site is empty after Olympia Development recently removed the fencing, lighting and big red shipping containers that were stacked to resemble the arena.

All that’s left are small piles of garbage and a mound of dirt where Gov. Rick Snyder, Christopher Ilitch, Mayor Duggan and Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry Jr. posed for pictures with shovels and hard hats. Snyder was facing re-election in just five weeks.

This is the arena site on Friday.
This is the arena site on Friday.

At the time, Olympia Development, which is in charge of the project, said work on the site would continue throughout the winter, and steel construction would begin in the spring of 2015. The only work has been outside the arena site, including the removal of graffiti from the abandoned Hotel Park Avenue and Eddystone Hotel.

It’s unclear whether the lack of work is related to Olympia’s decision in November to pull its zoning request to begin heavy construction after Detroit City Council wanted to ensure that the Hotel Park Avenue was preserved.

Olympia Development hasn’t returned our calls or e-mails for comment since Friday morning.

red wings arena
The mound of dirt used during the groundbreaking ceremony in September.
Live music and other entertainment followed the groundbreaking ceremony.
Live music and other entertainment followed the groundbreaking ceremony.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Jason Holloway

    News flash why does the city council want to save the hotel Park avenue but yet stood by and watched the destruction of Tiger Stadium and yes I aware of the fact that the field is still there but they where threatening the people who mowing it with trespassing charges for doing so plus with the deal they gave Olympia holding does the city council really think that they can call the shots

  • angel grimes

    “The Detroit District” had a hiring event at MI works on Conner. It was a bust.

    • Please explain?

    • Tomzezh

      Sounds like there’s not many qualified workers(or people interested in this type of work) in Detroit. Hopefully the younger generation takes advantage of the internship program for Cass Tech students.

  • Marian Pyszko

    The “undesirables” aka Cass Corridor crack heads/homeless need to be relocated first. Once new Section 8 vouchers for the Grosse Pointes have been approved construction will resume.

    • Don’t think so, bro!

      • shavers313

        Dawg I’m dying right now!!! lol

  • HankReardon

    Snyder’ reelection? ROFL

  • RE

    I’ll just point out that the pile of dirt still at the site is the one set up for photo ops with those in attendance at the symbolic groundbreaking. The pile of dirt that was used by Illich, Snyder et. al was on stage not on the ground. There are many things going on that are not always obvious. As a person who traverses these streets everyday, I see things going on every day. It’s winter, construction slows down, look at the M1 rail. It’s Michigan

    • muckraker_steve

      M1 never slowed down. They are going right through the winter and never took a break.

      • RE

        Steve, didn’t say they stopped, but they have slowed down QUITE a bit. Part of the work being done for the M1 is also the infrastructure work for both the rail and arena combined. There is a ton of infrastructure work to be done for both projects. Just because steel isn’t coming out of the ground yet doesn’t mean nothing is happening yet, several buildings have been torn down to make room for the DTE portion of the project. You can’t build up from the ground until the stuff under the ground is in place. And I’ll repeat, it was as is the case with all big projects, a symbolic groundbreaking a.k.a. Dog and pony show for politicians etc.

      • Tomzezh

        The difference there, M-1 had officially started construction, this project doesn’t start until they start digging a hole in the ground. From the pictures you took, it clearly shows that there’s not left to demolish.

  • MSUfan

    You’ve really should read local news more carefully I clearly remember them saying earth moving wouldn’t start until March

    • muckraker_steve

      And that is exactly what the story says – no steel construction until Spring.

      • Fergus

        Headline: “Goes silent.”

        Translation: “Stops.”

        Winter: A season that began around 6 p.m. 14 days ago.

      • Tomzezh

        You made it sound like the construction had stopped, when in fact nothing has even started yet. What happened in September was just ceremonial, It was made clear that it would start with site prep and mostly utility work(which is what DTE has been doing by the demolished site of the old Temple Hotel). The real work aka excavation starts in March.

      • Ashton Parsons

        So where’s the story Steve?

  • It’s very odd to me that we fall all over ourselves to preserve completely abandoned blight in the face of new investment. I want these things preserved too, but at some point you have to face the reality of the situation. There’s a fine line between preservationist and obstructionist. A line that the council seems to cross quite frequently.

    • MSUfan

      Given there there plans call for residential/hotel space there isn’t a single reason why they can’t be part of the plans. Less than a mile away another buildings that looks like these two is being renovated. It still boggles my mind that nearly every project people site as indicator Detroit’s comeback involves preservation, but people will still that a building needs good because it’s blocking investment. I dare ask what new investment has ever been blocked? When the city was considering demolishing the Book-Cadillac the same lame arguments about facing reality and not blocking future investment were made. The site of the former Statler Hotel remains a vacant weedy lot meanwhile it’s neighbors the Broderick and Whitney.buildings are pumping new life into the city. You’ve look at that lot wonder ‘what if’, but hey we had to face reality

      • I just presume that the architects and developers who are conducting the projects have a better idea what they’re doing better than the city council. If they wanted to rehab the building, I’d think it was the most economical decision. If they don’t, then I’d think it wasn’t. Maybe they’re just trying to pad their bill? In any event, I don’t see the benefit of delay. The building has sat vacant for 20 years? I get that the architecture of that era is far more pleasing than this time. I also understand that the most economic building is usually the one that is standing already. However, when people who do these things for a living say otherwise, I tend to agree with them.

        What I don’t understand is how you can look at a vacant building and think of the possibilities and not see the same thing with a vacant lot.

        A lot of people in Detroit have a lot of great ideas on how to invest other peoples’ money, but very little of their own money to invest. That doesn’t make a great investment case.

    • Tomzezh

      It’s typical Detroit. Half the city is vacant and people want development, but don’t want to tear down the useless vacant buildings.

      • I understand it for a lot of buildings, but this one in particular, just seems random. It’s “historic”? How? What’s important about it?

        I once clogged a hotel toilet in Chicago after some aggressive consumption of pizza. It’s one of the proudest moments on my life, but I don’t think it makes the Palmer House historic.

        • Tomzezh

          I agree.

          Hopefully they move on and build a new hotel infront of the arena, between Henry and Fisher. This should be an area that is snazzy and modern. We have plenty of history in other parts of the city.

  • Fergus

    QUOTE: “Olympia Development hasn’t returned our calls or e-mails for comment since Friday morning.”

    Looks like you have room to report whether their office was open on the slowest Friday of the year, and if so whether anyone but the janitor was on duty. Try again tomorrow. On the other hand and of course it’s possible that the shipping containers were removed to be sold as scrap because of a cash-flow problem, and no one has any intention of breaking ground ever. Or something in between.

    • muckraker_steve

      Fergus, they pay PR people to handle these issues, even on weekends and holidays.

      • Fergus

        I get the concept. It’s the details that interest me.

        • karpodiem

          reading this, they’ll be lucky to have this built by 2019.

          • Tomzezh

            They have already won to host 2017 March Madness games. It will be done on time for sure.

          • karpodiem

            they can move it to Auburn Hills pretty easily.

          • Where’s this “Auburn Hills” you speak of?

          • shavers313

            Wouldn’t make sense for Olympia. The Tigers are already downtown as well as the Fox.

      • Ashton Parsons

        There’s no PR here, construction doesn’t start until march, you should just delete this sensationalist piece