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The History of Joe Louis Arena

Joe Louis Arena replaced the Detroit Olympia, where the Detroit Red Wings had played since 1927. The neighborhood around the Olympia had gradually deteriorated, especially after the 1967 Detroit riot. After two murders took place near the Olympia, Red Wings owner Bruce Norris seriously considered moving to a proposed arena in suburban Pontiac. However, the city of Detroit countered with a proposal for a new riverfront arena at one-third of the rent Pontiac was offering. The package also gave the Red Wings operational control of both the arena, nearby Cobo Arena and nearby lots.

The arena hosted its first event on December 12, 1979: a college basketball game between the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit. The Red Wings played their first game at Joe Louis Arena on December 27, 1979, hosting the St. Louis Blues. Later that first 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. 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. In 1980, the arena hosted the Republican National Convention where Ronald Reagan was nominated as the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

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 currently houses 86 premium suites. In 2008, the arena introduced the Comerica Bank Legend's Club, a 181-person private seating location in the southeast corner of the arena.

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, Christopher Ilitch unveiled designs for Little Caesars Arena near Comerica Park and Ford Field to be completed by 2017, which will succeed Joe Louis Arena as the future home of the Red Wings. Joe Louis Arena will be demolished following the completion of the new arena, and its site will be redeveloped. 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 currently 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. The Red Wings final regular season game in this arena is currently scheduled for April 9, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils.