When is an arena concourse more than a concourse?

When it serves as an all-hours public space for a $2.1 billion sports and entertainment district.

Welcome to The District Detroit, the city of Detroit’s transformative 650,000-square-foot mixed-use, 50-block neighborhood anchored by the $862.9 million Little Caesars Arena. The arena hosts the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, concerts, and other events as health and safety conditions allow during the pandemic.

The concourse is the bold link that connects the arena to The District’s destination dining, retail, and office space. The design team at HOK Kansas City, the arena architects, channeled vibrant energy and spirit to create a 24/7 public space. The concourse even has its own brand: the Via.

The Via operates independent of arena events, one of the reasons more than 50% of the arena’s footprint is public space—a marked contrast to many other large sports and entertainment complexes. To encourage year-round use, the 90-foot-wide concourse boulevard is enclosed with a translucent ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) roof.

Ceiling Symbol

The Via’s central architectural feature is a 20,000-linear-foot (3.8 mile) monolithic ceiling system that resembles wings, an apt symbol for the city’s beloved hockey team. “The ceiling configuration serves as a sports symbol and wayfinding marker,” Hunter Pope says.

Pope should know. He worked closely during pre-construction with the HOK design team on behalf of the ceiling system’s manufacturer, CertainTeed Architectural. Today, Pope is an independent manufacturer’s rep based in Atlanta.

The Via ceiling, built with the Box 6 Series ceiling system, is noteworthy for at least three reasons:

1. Fully Realized Vision. The initial concept and the live installed system were virtually identical, right down to the wood-look finish. Pope said CertainTeed Architectural spared no effort in achieving HOK’s vision. “There’s no question other companies could do this, too,” Pope observes. “The question is, would they take the time and trouble to get down to the level of detail that’s required? Not every company would.”

2. No Field Cuts. Asking an installation team to field cut ceiling panel modules is problematic. Field cutting exposes the panels to a chop saw or miter saw that could chip the panel finish and require touch-up. Hunter Douglas produced 3,150 v-notched panels with factory-cut precision and cleanness, eliminating that concern and speeding installation. To ensure correct panel placement, each module was labeled to correspond to the 3D building model.

3. Sustainability. The ceiling system is aluminum, utilizing up to 92% recycled content. It’s free of VOCs and GREENGUARD Gold Certified. Factory cutting also helps minimize product waste.

Pope regards the Via ceiling system design, fabrication, and assembly as one of the smoothest installations of his career. For that he credits the collaborative efforts of HOK, CertainTeed Architectural, and installation contractors. “It came to life quickly. HOK knew what they wanted. We delivered the vision. It was a humbling experience.” Simplicity has its rewards: The work received the Construction Excellence Gold Award by the Ceilings and Interior Systems Construction Association.

Learn more about how to translate the ideas of your next ceiling project into reality.