DETROIT — Olympia Entertainment President Tom Wilson traveled throughout North America visiting NHL arenas to take the best ideas from them for the Motor City.
He also took a look at how the roof of a hockey arena in Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics was lit up with cool displays.
Just three months before Kid Rock becomes the first star to perform in the centerpiece of a 50-block development, Wilson touted the facility that the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons will share next season. The arena is part of an active construction zone in an $800-plus million project.
Much of the arena is draped with an aluminum shell that will become a big screen to show projected videos and images to create the same effect people saw three years ago during the Sochi Games.
“Bigger than anything you’ll see in Times Square, Disney or Vegas,” Wilson told reporters Monday during a guided tour.
He spoke under a translucent plastic roof on an elevated concourse inspired by the High Line in New York.
“This building is going to be a piece of art,” Wilson gushed. “I think this is going to blow people away.”
Capacity for hockey games will be about 20,000, with almost half of those seats in the lower level. About 21,000 fans can watch hoops in the heart of the Motor City.
Even those without one of the best seats in the house will have a clear view of what Wilson said will be the largest scoreboard in the NHL, with videoboards that will be the same size along the sideboards and behind the nets.
There are seating sections that seem suspended from the ceiling, looming over steeply pitched sections below them. That idea was born after a scouting trip to Madison Square Garden in New York. On another day, Wilson took note of how intimate the Bell Centre appeared to be for the Montreal Canadiens.
“It should be the tightest bowl,” Wilson said. “The whole emphasis is about getting close.”
It should sound good, too.
“We’ll have the finest acoustics of any arena this size in the country,” he said.
With two teams, the Red Wings and Pistons, that might struggle next season, Wilson is selling an experience that begins before games and continues after the final horn.
Several restaurants will be on site, and an outdoor plaza can give up to 4,000 people, with or without tickets to one of 250 events each year, a place to hang out and listen to concerts while sipping on something and getting a bite to eat.
“I think it’s going to change the way people attend an event,” Wilson said.