• As Lease Winds Down, Joe Louis Arena Is Beyond Repair

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    Terry Foster / The Detroit News

    Detroit –Joe Louis Arena was outdated even when it opened in 1979 at a cost of $57 million, replacing Olympia Stadium.

    It was jammed on the river, isolated from the rest of downtown and lacked many of the amenities that added to the enjoyment of attending NHL games.

    More than 30 years later, The Joe is one of the NHL’s dinosaurs — and if the Wings have their way, it might soon become extinct.

    The team’s lease with the City of Detroit expires in June. The Wings say it would cost them $10 million in renovations to remain at The Joe.

    Owner Mike Ilitch wants the city to build a new arena downtown. And, while it’s being built, there have been reports the team is considering signing a three-year lease with The Palace.

    Whatever the outcome, Joe Louis appears on its last legs.

    At Saturday’s Wings-Kings game, The News toured the facility and talked to fans about the home of Hockeytown.

    Among the observations:

    • The outside steps leading to the stadium, while always dangerous and ill-suited for a major sports arena, are worse than ever, with decaying concrete. The inside steps also are dangerous.

    • The restrooms are so inadequate that fans — especially women — are forced to miss portions of the game because of long lines.

    • The seats, leg room and corridor have one thing in common — they’re too small.

    • Parking is a mess, and getting out of The Joe or its parking structure is a hassle.

    Smells of the game

    It hits you as soon as you walk off the People Mover — a sulfur-like smell emitting from sewers and some parts of The Joe. Some fans complain it’s not much better in the corridors, but Joe Louis smells better than old Tiger Stadium.

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