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Detroit Olympia
The Old Red Barn
Olympia Zamboni in patio of Detroits HockeyTown restaurant.jpg
Location 5920 Grand River Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48208
Coordinates 42°21′16″N 83°6′2″W / 42.35444°N 83.10056°W / 42.35444; -83.10056Coordinates: 42°21′16″N 83°6′2″W / 42.35444°N 83.10056°W / 42.35444; -83.10056
Opened 1927
Closed 1979
Demolished 1987
Architect C. Howard Crane
Capacity 15,000
Tenants
Detroit Cougars/Falcons/Red Wings (NHL) (1927–1979)
Detroit Pistons (NBA) (1957–1961)
Detroit Olympics (IHL) (1927–1936)

Olympia Stadium, better known as the Detroit Olympia and nicknamed The Old Red Barn, stood at 5920 Grand River Avenue in Detroit, Michigan from 1927 until 1987. It seated close to 15,000.

The Olympia opened with a rodeo in September 1927, and shortly thereafter the main tenants of the building, the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL (at the time, known as the Cougars), moved in. The Cougars would play their first game at the Olympia on November 22, and Detroit's Johnny Sheppard would record the first goal scored at the new building.[1] However, the visiting Ottawa Senators defeated the Cougars, 2-1.

Besides the Red Wings, the Olympia was also home to the Detroit Olympics International-American Hockey League minor league team in the 1930s, and the NBA's Detroit Pistons from 1957 to 1961. It hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 1959 and the NCAA Frozen Four in 1977 and 1979.

The Olympia was also a major venue for boxing through the International Boxing Club, featuring such prominent fights as Jake LaMotta's defeat of Sugar Ray Robinson, and professional wrestling, as well as the Harlem Globetrotters and the Ice Capades.

Amongst musical performers to play at the Olympia were The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Pink Floyd, and The Monkees.

In the mid-1970s, the Red Wings had seriously considered moving to the suburbs, especially after the Detroit Lions moved to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1975. The neighborhood surrounding the Olympia had been in decline since the 1967 riots, and two murders had occurred within the building's shadow. The team was offered a new arena by the City of Pontiac, and Red Wings owner Bruce Norris nearly moved the team to the Oakland County suburb. But the City of Detroit responded with the counterproposal of a riverfront arena at one-third of the rent that Pontiac was offering, and the package also included operational control of Cobo Arena and the adjoining parking structures.[2] The Red Wings accepted the offer to move to the new Joe Louis Arena, which was completed 19 days ahead of schedule.[3]

Lincoln Cavalieri, general manager of Olympia Stadium, once described the building's construction as tremendous, saying "... if an atom bomb landed, I'd want to be in Olympia." Although not likely to have actually survived a nuclear attack, the Olympia was considered to be a well-constructed building, and Cavalieri, along with many in the Red Wings organization, were sad to leave it behind.

On December 15, 1979, just three days after the first event held at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings played their final home game at the Olympia, a 4-4 tie against the Quebec Nordiques. The Olympia was included in part of the celebration of the 32nd NHL All-Star Game, which took place at Joe Louis Arena on February 5, 1980. Because a provision in the Wings' lease with the City of Detroit prevented them from operating Olympia Stadium in competition with Joe Louis or Cobo Arenas for events, or selling the building for use as a competitive venue, the building was shuttered for good, and demolished in September 1987.

Overhead exit signs erected in the early 1970s along the Jeffries Freeway mentioning Olympia Stadium were taken down around 1980; the signs would be stored in the lower levels of Joe Louis Arena. Currently, the U.S. National Guard's Olympia Armory stands on the site. A historical marker was posted inside the armory commemorating the Olympia.

References

Preceded by
Border Cities Arena
Home of the
Detroit Cougars/Falcons/Red Wings

1927 – 1979
Succeeded by
Joe Louis Arena
Preceded by
War Memorial Coliseum
Home of the
Detroit Pistons

1957 – 1961
Succeeded by
Cobo Arena
Preceded by
First Arena
Home of the
Detroit Olympics

1929 – 1936
Succeeded by
Duquesne Gardens
(Pittsburgh Hornets)
Preceded by

Maple Leaf Gardens
Maple Leaf Gardens
Montreal Forum
Host of the
NHL All-Star Game

1950
1952
1954–1955
Succeeded by

Maple Leaf Gardens
Montreal Forum
Montreal Forum
Preceded by
Kiel Auditorium
Host of the
NBA All-Star Game

1959
Succeeded by
Convention Hall
Preceded by
University of Denver Arena
Denver, Colorado
Host of the
Frozen Four

1977
Succeeded by
Providence Civic Center
Providence, Rhode Island
Preceded by
Providence Civic Center
Providence, Rhode Island
Host of the
Frozen Four

1979
Succeeded by
Providence Civic Center
Providence, Rhode Island
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