By Karen Hogan Ketchum, Senior Editor
The arena is already a hit with fans, as well as those responsible for keeping the fans entertained on game day.
Hockeytown has a new address in The District Detroit.
After nearly four decades at Joe Louis Arena, the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings — 11-time Stanley Cup Champions — began playing its home games at the state-of-the-art Little Caesars Arena prior to the 2017-18 season. Also home to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, the arena is the cornerstone of The District Detroit, a 50-block sports and entertainment district that is contributing to the city’s comeback with new retail, office, and residential developments.
It helps that the arena features one of the world’s largest, seamless centerhung videoboard systems as its canvas. Olympia Entertainment and the Detroit Red Wings, both owned by the Ilitch organization, teamed up with Daktronics to design the eye-catching structure with the goal of creating an unforgettable in-venue experience.
The videoboard system features four 28- x 43.5-ft. displays with 6-mm line spacing, connected seamlessly to create a continuous, 360-degree video experience. Underneath the four main displays are four under-mount displays, each measuring 7.3 x 38.5 ft., for fans seated in the front rows. All together, the structure boasts more than 5,100 sq. ft. of video real estate. As a result, the Olympia Entertainment’s entertainment-services team initially leveraged the square footage to reintroduce the team to its fans.
“This is our first year with the videoboard, and we’re learning different things every day,” says Pete Skorich, Vice President of Entertainment Services for Olympia Entertainment and the Detroit Red Wings. “At first, we were focusing on delivering these spectacular images to our fans. Coming out of Joe Louis Arena, which was an antiquated venue with an antiquated scoreboard and a very small videoboard, our fans were not used to seeing our players up close, so our philosophy was that we’re going to show up-close images of our players so fans can see their emotions and what they look like.
“As we learn more things, we’re now trying to take advantage of the seamlessness of the videoboard,” he continues. “We seem to learn something new every week and find a different way that we can entertain our fans and different ways of showing them images that are pretty dynamic.”
Skorich manages the video-control room at Little Caesars Arena. The 1080p control room, located on the arena’s club level and integrated by Diversified, features a Grass Valley Karrera production switcher, Evertz Magnum router and two DreamCatcher replay servers, and three ChyronHego graphics servers. A Cisco StadiumVision IPTV system delivers content to more than 1,300 monitors around the building.
The seven-level venue was constructed with its floor, the event level, about 40 ft. below street level. The club level is located between the event level and the main concourse, which is known as the “Via,” and has no line of sight into the bowl. Because of this, the design team built a secondary control-room space in the arena’s “gondola” area, which is suspended over the rink/floor, for the game-day entertainment director, the Daktronics operators, the lighting director, and the DJ. Skorich often watches the game from the gondolas, in communication with the team in the club level control room.
The team invested in Grass Valley LDX cameras — six wired, one wireless — along with 11 PTZ cameras installed around the interior and exterior of the building, including three under the videoboard structure. With 18 cameras at its disposal — up from four SD cameras at Joe Louis Arena — Olympia Entertainment’s entertainment-services team is also responsible for three weekly web features: XFINITY Week in Review, The Forecheck, and This Week at 313 Presents. 313 Presents is a joint venture between Olympia Entertainment and Palace Sports & Entertainment, also headquartered at Little Caesars Arena.
When Skorich first arrived at Olympia Entertainment a little over a year ago, his immediate focus was putting together an entertainment services department to create a wealth of content for the Red Wings’ fanbase, both inside and outside the arena. “We put that team together so that we could develop what I call a content factory,” he says. “We are pumping out volumes of content every day and following the Red Wings around. Whether it be game-related features, documenting what the team is doing in the community, or developing content for our partners, we’re fortunate to have a talented team in place that has a passion for creating high-quality content.”
In addition to the centerhung videoboard, the entertainment-services team creates content for 45 large LED displays throughout the venue, including two 360-degree ribbon displays, 15 additional ribbon displays, seven exterior displays (including a 900-sq.-ft. Chevrolet Plaza display), and much more.
The arena’s pièce de resistance is a 600-ft. jewel skin on the upper concourse, composed of 4,210 panels with 12 laser projectors that greets fans as they walk into the building. With the jewel skin, Little Caesars Arena can project images and color schemes that immediately brand the venue for any event, be it sports or entertainment.
Rounding out Little Caesars Arena’s fan-facing video elements is an LED ceiling inside the bowl, which can also showcase images and event-specific color schemes, including a 3D image-mapping system. The LED ceiling, combined with a state-of-the-art lighting grid and banner system (the Red Wings’ 11 Stanley Cup Championship banners are unfurled dramatically before a game, for example) ensures that the in-venue experience will be unforgettable before the game even starts.
“It is a building that is a real, live, breathing creature that has a lot of elements of surprise for people that are coming for the first time,” says Skorich. “We feel like we have so many things at our disposal that, no matter how many times you come to a Red Wings or Pistons game or a concert or show, you’re seeing something different every night.”