The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 15, 2017

Trades' work opens Little Caesar's Arena

By The Building Tradesman

DETROIT - The race to build Little Caesar's Arena and get it open in time for its opening act, Kid Rock's Sept. 12 concert, was won by the project management team of Barton Malow-White, its subcontractors, and building trades union members.

While there was still work to complete at the 21,000-seat arena, a Sept. 5 event allowed the public its first look at the facility, as members of the Illitch family and other dignitaries cut a ribbon to open up the building to public tours.

"This is such an important moment for our community, our organization and the thousands of people who have put their hearts, hands and souls into this project," said Christopher Illitch, president and CEO of Illitch Holdings, Inc. to guests at the ribbon cutting. "Developments like Little Caesar's Arena and the District Detroit are rare, perhaps once in a lifetime. When they are done well and they are done right they can create incredible pride and change lives across our community.  We believe we have created something truly spectacular for the people of our city, our region and our state."

Thousands of building trades union workers have toiled on the arena along Woodward Avenue over the course of the two-and-a-half year, $800 million-plus project. Illitch said the arena, which will be home to the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons, is the product of some three million man-hours of labor. 

Illitch Holdings, the City of Detroit and Barton Malow have repeatedly stressed the recruitment effort to get Detroit residents involved with the project as apprentices. Barton Malow Senior Project Manager Sean Hollister said 600,000 hours have been worked by Detroit residents. He said 836 apprentices worked on the project - about 15 percent of the construction workforce, more than double a typical project of this size.

"It's been an honor to be part of such a changing project," Hollister said. "This project has gone extremely fast. We've worked on a lot of sports projects and this arena is tops, world class. As you go thorough it, the amount of detail you will see, the look and the architectural integrity of the facility is just second to none. There are so many beautiful products, all the handmade brick, the really cool feel to it, the jewel skin, to me it's like the old city of Detroit mixed in with the new."

To date, 94 percent of the construction contracts at Little Caesar's Arena and the surrounding  developments have been let to Michigan-based companies. "I am so proud of our Michigan-made, Detroit-built mission, and I am proud of the team that made it happen," Ilitch said.

"When you look at it," Hollister added, "it has had a tremendous impact for the trades and workers who have been out here every single day. And it has been great for the City of Detroit for a lot of workforce that we have never had here before, and we're using this opportunity to build that workforce for the next large project."

Located on Woodward north of I-75, Little Caesar's Arena is part of The District Detroit, a 50-block, mixed-use development led by the Ilitch organization. It unites eight theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues, including Comerica Park and Ford Field. Detroit will be the only city with all four major league sports teams in the downtown area.