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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Report likely means a new Red Wings stadium will happen, but several questions remain

It's well known the Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch has interest in a new arena in downtown Detroit. That desire was further put into motion with the report that Ilitch's company has lined up developers for a new arena released Monday by the Sports Business Journal.
The Ilitches reportedly chose Dallas-based HKS as well as Boston-based Chan Krieger NBBJ, which specializes in urban arenas. That should be the first nugget pulled from this report -- the Red Wings are actually serious about staying in downtown Detroit.
Joe Louis Arena in 2007
(It's also worth noting in SBJ's report that the Ilitches passed over the designers of Comerica Park and Ford Field for this assignment.)
It has been speculated an area in the so-called "Cass Corridor" behind the Fox Theatre was being bought up by the Ilitches. SBJ also puts that on record.
"The team is considering a few sites for a new arena, sources said, including property behind the Fox Theatre, headquarters of Olympia Entertainment."
Such an arrangement would of course leave Ilitch with a stranglehold on that side of the block -- save for Ford Field, of course.
It's also worth pointing out: "Chan Krieger NBBJ’s work includes a West Riverfront mixed-use project in Detroit, according to its website. The project, part of a 5 1/2-mile stretch of redevelopment along the Detroit River that includes Joe Louis Arena, remains in the planning stages."
The SBJ report later attributed sources in saying the development team will be tasked with turning Detroit into an entertainment district "similar to Nationwide Arena in Columbus and Staples Center in Los Angeles."
At 33 years and counting, Joe Louis Arena isn't getting any younger. But when a team gets a new home, it typically leaves a vacant stadium. It begs the question: What will cash-strapped Detroit do with an empty Joe Louis Arena? Surely, riverfront property will be redeveloped quicker than the ruins of Tiger Stadium, but what becomes of the large building until then?
Concerts will likely jump at the new arena or one of its neighboring stadiums and the Fox and Fillmore auditoriums aren't a bad second choice. And there's always The Palace as well, where the Ilitches once floated the idea of temporarily sharing with the Pistons prior to Tom Gores' purchase of Palace, Sports and Entertainment. The only revenue producer that jumps out would be hosting minor league hockey -- and that's not going to pay the bills, especially if Ilitch's Olympia Entertainment, which operates the city-owned JLA, packs up for the new digs.
It took some 10 years for Tiger Stadium to get torn down  and the lot still sits vacant -- despite the city's apparent hope to lure a big box retailer to Michigan Avenue. The Red Wings' former home, the Olympia, wasn't demolished for eight years after the Wings moved to the riverfront. For a time after the Wings move, Joe Louis Arena is likely to be empty. Notice the city hasn't been quick to throw out ideas in the more than a year since the Ilitches floated the idea of building a new arena.
(This is not to mention the under-utilized Pontiac Silverdome which Pontiac leaders are still scrambling to redevelop 10 years after the Lions left for Detroit.)
Ilitch is a wealthy man, no doubt, but how will the arena be financed? Is struggling Detroit supposed to pick up the tab? Ilitch and the Tigers got $90 million in public funding for Comerica Park. The Lions got $200 million for Ford Field. How much does it cost to build a multi-purpose arena a decade later?
That's why the idea of sharing a venue with the Pistons made sense and excited suburbanites while riling city residents. It looks like, as many expected, Ilitch won't be leaving Detroit. As Oakland Press columnist Pat Caputo pointed out more than two years ago when the idea of this double-bunking surfaced, Detroit is one of only three sports cities featuring separate venues for all four of its professional sports teams. Several major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas (built in part by HKS) and Atlanta share venues.
And The Palace isn't the only other arena capable of housing hockey. Ford Field hosted the Frozen Four in 2010. 
The SBJ report mentions a seating capacity of 18,000 in a potential new Red Wings arena, which is roughly 2,000 fewer seats than Joe Louis Arena. Why else would an owner reduce the number of seats? Possibly to create more luxury suites and drive up the demand for "regular" seats. It's also possible the lot dimensions simply don't allow for it.
And in an era of ubiquitous corporate sponsorship, Joe Louis Arena is one of just three NHL arenas without such backing. It's hard to believe this new arena could escape its destiny as a branch of the Little Caesars marketing empire, possibly as "Hot 'N Ready" Place. (It would be ironic because hockey arenas are cold, get it?)
Some will argue you can't replace the nostalgia of short steps, trough-style urinals and the worst cell reception in the city. My co-worker even once called it "an 8-track in an iPod."
Wistful fans will point to the four Cups and will have to be dragged back up town. They cannot be reasoned with and will likely beg for the Joe to be renovated. (If that was going to happen, it already would have.) 
Regardless of how fans feel about the arena (which would be within close walking distance of many popular drinking establishments including Cheli's Chili), it's likely the media will feel more at home in a new Red Wings arena -- as long as those chosen architects remember to plan for a press box in this one.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dennis Rodman discusses post-NBA career for ESPN's 'Outside The Lines'

After emerging from the shadows of retirement for a return to The Palace to watch his first of the handful of pro jerseys he called tattoo blockers lifted to the rafters and his subsequent Hall of Fame enshrinement last August, Dennis Rodman has resided in relative obscurity, save for appearing last week in China to christen a statue dedicated to Stephon Marbury.
The biggest news, however, that Rodman has made since telling the world famed director Penny Marshall was directing a documentary about his life and he's just hoping to live long enough to see it, came recently after his lawyer claimed the former Bad Boy was penniless and ill.
Rodman was never quoted in the March child support proceedings. It's unclear if he plans to address those comments Sunday when he's the subject of a feature on ESPN's "Outside The Lines."
According to a press release from the four-letter network,other guests include one-time Lakers coach Kurt Rambis, who coached Rodman on the last legs of his NBA career in 1999; as well as a more relevant interview -- Tim Keown, who co-wrote Rodman's best-selling autobiography  “Bad As I Wanna Be" in 1997. (Rodman also starred in the made-for-TV adaptation a year later.)
"Sunday, the flamboyant Hall of Famer speaks candidly about life after basketball, and about allegations that he’s an alcoholic," the statement reads.
The episode airs at 9 a.m. on ESPN and replays at 10 a.m. on ESPN2. And if the preview is any indication, Rodman will continue bare his soul while being brutally honest about his lifestyle.
Click here to watch a preview of Dennis Rodman's interview on ESPN's "Outside The Lines."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Deal to sell booze at Michigan Stadium not expected to put school under the influence

If you're not already tired of beer by New Year's Day and you happen to be one of the more than 100,000 expected in attendance of Winter Classic featuring the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium, you may be able to get more beer during the game.
As expected, the University of Michigan has applied for a liquor license for the Winter Classic, which will be voted on Wednesday, CBS Detroit reports.
The site says the school has a temporary permit, but it doesn't cover such a large crowd.
The sale of so-called spirits inside the stadium is not likely to affect the tale-gating crowd, which is ubiquitous around Ann Arbor during college football season.
As you may know, alcohol sales aren't permitted at all college campuses in the United States.
A 2009 report by the Wall Street Journal examined alcohol sales on college campuses.
"Overall, about three dozen of the roughly 120 largest NCAA Division 1 schools allow beer sales inside their stadiums, though many limit sales to luxury suites, lounges or club-seating areas. In other cases, beer is available stadium-wide because a facility is owned by the city, the state or a local sports authority, and that body, not the school, establishes the alcohol policy. Most colleges, already struggling with underage drinking on campus, frown on beer sales in their stadiums."
It could take some effort to outfit concession stands with kegs and taps, but surely there would have to be a large assortment of Canadian brews to make Leafs fans feel at home. They are, after all, donating a large amount of money to the economy of Southeast Michigan for this shindig. 
It's doubtful U-M has a hard time making money off its prestigious football team, but it will be interesting to see if the university considers allowing alcohol sales in future football seasons.
A U-M spokesperson emphasized to the desire for a liquor license is just for the hockey game.
"This doesn't change anything," Rick Fitzgerald said. "I don't want it to be construed that somehow Michigan is going to start serving beer at Michigan Stadium. This is just for the NHL game."
It doesn't seem as if alcohol will be allowed inside the Big House for football anytime soon. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

JV's Fastball Flakes top 100

A report in Crain's Detroit Business says sales of Justin Verlander-endorsed Fastball Flakes have topped 110,000 in sales, making it one of PBL Sports' best-selling athlete cereals of the past five years.
Crain's reports the limited-edition cereal will be on sale until the supply runs out, but the company wouldn't disclose just how many units remain. The cereal, modeled after Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, has been on sale since February and is available at select Michigan Meijer locations.
It's unclear where this puts Verlander in the realm of Detroit athletes' food product sales, but surely he's working his way up the charts.  Have you tried Fastball Flakes and what is your favorite product featuring a Detroit athlete? You can see mine at right:

Brandon Inge plays Moneyball against Tigers

Former Tiger Brandon Inge comes with a lot of baggage after more the a decade of a checkered past in MoTown. After an unceremonious exit and subsequent resurrection, his performance against the Tigers this past weekend was still unexpected — and costly.
Detroit is on the hook for $5.3 million of his salary after cutting him April 26. That means the Tigers paid $148,251 for the four-game set, of which Inge didn't even play the final game.
Apparently Inge has been busy focusing on his renaissance, not making time for any shopping since leaving the Tigers.
A photo provided by Sunday shows his luggage getting set for Oakland's trip to Los Angeles. Inge's gear stands out quite a bit from that of his teammates' — because it's emblazoned with an old English "D."
After 12 seasons in Detroit, Inge is probably very familiar with his suitcase, which likely sticks out like a sore thumb at the airport, so that's a plus if he happens to fly commercial.
It seems after Inge was busy earning his salary from the Tigers by killing them on the field, he was preparing for the intra-state trip using what was likely just another gift from the Tigers organization.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

What the Lions' logo would look like if they played 'the other football'

Gridiron League took a stab at recreating the logos of NFL teams, taking a very nostalgic approach with a very football — the one that reigns supreme in Europe. That's not to say I don't like the recreations, though.
The project by Wes Kull, who wishes that some of the NFL logos were more Budweiser and less Bud Light."
"This is not an exercise in nostalgia but an interpretation of the league's founding principles through the symbols that we, as football fans, identify with most," the site says. 
Some standouts include the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks recreations. The Lions logo, like many of the rest of the league, isn't a far departure from the current iteration.
"Many NFL franchises — Patriots, Broncos, Rams, Lions — have updated their uniforms and logos to a swooshed-out, dropped-shadowed, and more commercial-ready image, ignoring a good deal of their team's heritage and the original rough-and-tumble character that the league stood for."
Enjoy the gallery and let us know your favorites. 

Monday, May 07, 2012

ChiSox announcer asleep at the mic for Jhonny Peralta's walk-off homer

The fine folks at Awful Announcing pointed out something you missed on the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast of Jhonny Peralta's walk-off home run Friday night. White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson seemed so disgusted with the homer he couldn't bear to call the action. It may have been technical difficulties that left CSN with dead air for more than a minute, but not likely.
In the realm of baseball homers to leave you speechless, was that really one of them?

Just for comparison's sake, listen to Mario Impemba's call on the home feed.  Certainly you expect more emotion from the home team's announcers in this type of situation, but Harrelson's derelict fashion reeks of an unprofessional broadcaster and a homer of another kind.