Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Olympia Stadium

Nicknamed the “Old Red Barn,” Olympia Stadium stood at the corner of Grand River and McGraw avenues in Detroit for nearly 60 years before its demolition in 1986. During that time, hundreds of thousands of Detroiters cheered the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Pistons, and boxing luminaries like Joe Louis within its distinctive red brick walls. Though built as a hockey rink, conventions, political rallies, expositions and concerts were held there. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones all performed at Olympia.

The stadium was designed by noted architect C. Howard Crane, who designed the Fox Theatre and Orchestra Hall, among 50 other Detroit theaters. The cornerstone was laid on March 8, 1927 and the first hockey game played on November 22, 1927 by the then-named Detroit Cougars. The team became the Falcons in 1930, and adopted their permanent moniker, the Detroit Red Wings, in 1932. When it opened, the five-level stadium featured the largest indoor skating rink in the United States, at 242 feet by 110 feet.

Capacity ranged from 11,563 seats when opened to 13,000 when the stadium was expanded in 1965. The arena was noted for its rafters’ area standing room for 3,000, the steep pitch putting fans on top of the game. 

Olympia was host to the Red Wings famous “Production Line” players, Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay, who during the 1950s led the team to win four Stanley Cups, and finish first seven times in a row. 

The final official game at Olympia Stadium was played on December 15, 1979, although an exhibition game was played there in February 1980. After the Red Wings left for their new home at Joe Louis Arena, there were no other tenants, and the building was demolished in 1986. The letters from the side of the building spelling “Olympia” were salvaged, and later incorporated into Little Caesars Arena, the third home of the Red Wings.

The site is occupied by a Michigan National Guard Armory.



Olympia Stadium, 1927 - 2012.022.645

Red Wings Yearbook, containing images of the renovated Olympia Stadium, 1966 - 2004.072.033

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