DETROIT -- The Ilitch family is taking another step closer to deciding the fate of Joe Louis Arena, home to their Detroit Red Wings.
This week, the Ilitches -- who own a billion-dollar Detroit empire of sports teams, entertainment venues and downtown property -- moved one of its longtime senior executives into a newly created job to determine whether Joe Louis should be renovated or a new hockey arena should be built for the Red Wings.
Randy Lippe, president of Olympia Entertainment, was named senior executive in charge of arena development at Olympia Development, said Karen Cullen, spokeswoman for Ilitch Holdings Inc.
"We've been looking at two paths for some time now" for Joe Louis, Cullen said. "We wanted someone to really explore both options. It doesn't mean there is a timeline for a decision."
Lippe was unavailable for comment Friday. His new role will be officially announced next week, Cullen said.
A search is under way for a new president of Olympia Entertainment, a subsidiary of Ilitch Holdings. Olympia Entertainment owns and operates Fox Theatre, and operates Joe Louis Arena, Cobo Arena, Comerica Park and City Theatre. Lippe will continue day-to-day operations of Olympia Entertainment until his successor is chosen, Cullen said.
The Ilitches have said for more than a decade they intend to build a modern arena for the Wings or renovate Joe Louis. Their 30-year lease from the city expires in 2009.
The Ilitches announced in January that they had begun feasibility studies on the project. Patriarch Mike Ilitch has said repeatedly he prefers a site near the Ilitch-owned Fox Theatre. It sits across Woodward Avenue from the Ilitch-operated Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, also owned by Ilitch.
But Mike Ilitch recently said on a recent Detroit sports talk show that he hasn't ruled out building a new arena in the suburbs, Cullen said.
Joe Louis opened in 1979 after former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young built it to keep the Wings from moving to Oakland County. The team was under different ownership at the time.
Joe Louis is the fifth-oldest arena in the National Hockey League. The Wings could expect to bring in at least $10 million in additional revenue each year with a new facility from naming rights and luxury boxes alone.
The Ilitches have not said how they would finance the project.
Lippe, 49, started work at a Little Caesar's store 32 years ago, and stayed with the pizza chain created by Mike and Marian Ilitch from 1974 to 1982.
After the Ilitches bought the Wings, Lippe moved to Olympia Entertainment, called Olympia Arenas at that time, where he was in charge of the one Little Caesar's at Joe Louis Arena.
He has worked in many areas of the Ilitch empire, including Comerica Park. Up until two years ago he served as senior vice president and general manager of Joe Louis and Cobo Arena.
You can reach Louis Aguilar at (313) 222-2760 or firstname.lastname@example.org