DETROIT (WWJ) - It's official: The new home of the Detroit Red Wings will be named "Little Caesars Arena."
The announcement was made by Little Caesars and Olympia Entertainment shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday, at which time it was also revealed the Little Caesars character will appear on the roof.
The chosen name isn't too huge of a surprise, since the pizza chain was founded and is owned by Red Wings team owners Mike and Marian Ilitch, who also own the Detroit Tigers.
"This sponsorship is another major investment by the Ilitch companies in Detroit, its great people and its comeback story. It's a proud day for Little Caesars, the Detroit Red Wings, our community, and for my parents Mike and Marian Ilitch," said Ilitch Holdings CEO Chris Ilitch, in a media release. "To have their first business as the namesake of this building in their beloved hometown is an amazing tribute to their careers and their love for the people here."
"They decided decades ago that they would do everything they could to contribute to Detroit's resurgence. Beginning with the renovation of the historic Fox Theatre and their relocation of Little Caesars headquarters to Detroit, their vision was to create a bustling, live, work and play sports and entertainment district," he said. "This is exactly what we're building here with The District Detroit and Little Caesars Arena.
Along with the roof, Little Caesars Arena branding will appear on the exterior, at entrances and at center ice.
The 20-year naming rights agreement, averaging more than $6.25 million per year, is estimated to be the largest investment in a naming sponsorship for a building whose sole professional sport is hockey.
"Little Caesars has experienced incredible growth over the last decade," said David Scrivano, president and CEO of Little Caesars. "We were founded in the Detroit area 57 years ago as a family company and grew to become the world's largest carryout-only pizza chain from right here in the city."
"...This sponsorship will give us broader visibility than we've ever had before, and we couldn't be more excited about this amazing investment in our brand, right down the street from our headquarters campus in the city we love."
According to the report by Crain's Detroit Business, an international brokerage firm swooped up the domain name littlecaesarsarena.com from a local businessman earlier this year, giving fans a clue about a possible name.
This came after, back in February, Chris Ilitch indicated that there was a sponsor for the naming rights — pretty much ruling out fan favorite suggestions including Gordie Howe Arena and Hockeytown.
Reaction to the chosen name has been mixed, leaning a bit toward distaste.
"What on earth does pizza have to do with hockey?" asked Detroit resident Mary Zawala, who was among those sounding off after the big reveal. "We are known as Hockeytown USA! They should've named it Hockeytown Sports Arena."
Mike Ilitch has said the new 20,000-seat arena will open in 2017 and stands to have an $1.8 billion economic impact in the area, including 8,300 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent jobs.
The new arena is part of a broader entertainment district — dubbed "District Detroit" — being built at Woodward Ave. and I-75, just north of downtown.
The Wings currently play at the aging Joe Louis Arena, which opened in 1979.
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