Little Caesars Arena
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Elation Professional, InterAmerica Stage
Lighting / Visual Designer:
Illuminating Concepts, Crossfade Design
Motor City Electric
Project Submitted By:
Lighting & Visual
Little Caesars Arena in Detroit opened in September to praise as one of the most innovative and technologically impressive sports and entertainment complexes in the world. Part of the credit can be taken by the venue’s unique dynamic ceiling, a 43,000-square-foot wire grid onto which nearly 1,700 custom LED strip lights from Elation Professional are mounted.
Designed by architectural and engineering firm HOK architects, the 863 million dollar, 20,000-seat arena is part of District Detroit as the major new attraction in the city’s rapidly revitalizing greater downtown. Home to the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons, the arena will be home to a slew of sporting and entertainment events. Built to maximize the live event experience, it is one of the most unique arenas in the world.
Lighting and multi-media design firm, Illuminating Concepts (IC), was the lighting designer on the project, responsible for lighting the public spaces through to the theatrical lighting in the bowl. The dynamic ceiling is just one part of the arena’s large integrated lighting network in which all lighting is interconnected – indoors and out – to act as one themed environment. Illuminating Concept’s design for the arena uses lighting to create a space that engages, guides visitors, creates moods and disseminates advertiser information. IC brought in production design company Crossfade Design, a firm with extensive theatrical lighting and video experience, to handle the theatrical lighting elements, including the dynamic ceiling.
The client wanted the arena bowl to be covered by a solid ceiling, rather than the typical black void of most arenas, but with challenges like HVAC and rigging to contend with, not to mention cost concerns, the solution wasn’t easy to find. The answer came in the form of SkyDeck, a tension wire grid system created by InterAmerica Stage. The open wire covering acts as a scrim over the bowl, a modular ceiling that can be reconfigured for any event.
Although Crossfade Design tested several strip lights for the project, they quickly came to the conclusion that a custom solution was best. Only minimal features were required. The result was a custom spin-off of Elation’s six-color SixBar 500™ (1/2 meter) and SixBar 1000™ (1 meter) LED batten lights yet with RGBW LEDs only, a lower wattage and other design changes, such as moving connector locations for data and power, that allow it to keep a clean look.
The remodified fixtures use 10W Cree RGBW multi-chip LEDs with each LED individually controllable, which makes a virtually unlimited number of designs possible. Custom mounting brackets were added to install the fixtures beneath 372 removable SkyDeck panels (4 fixtures per panel). Each panel has four quadrants that can be lit separately and each fixture has a custom-made glare shield attached so that the lights won’t shine into the audience’s eyes as seating extends nearly up to the level of the ceiling.
The custom Elation fixtures, dubbed the Quad Bar 500 and Quad Bar 1000, create a multi-colored light ceiling that immerses guests in a state-of-the-art house lighting system like no other. Using the ceiling’s wire mesh as a scrim, the lighting can be used to engage the visitor, create different moods and project logos, advertising and other branding. The dynamic ceiling allows everyone to feel a part of the fun and has also eliminated the typical arena black hole look above the audience.
Crossfade was also responsible for fixture addressing, all data and signal flow, including RDM, as well as initial programming of the lights. IC produced the design drawings and handled all of the coordination with InterAmerica Stage. Electrical contractor Motor City Electric installed the fixtures. Illuminating Concepts, Crossfade Design, InterAmerica Stage, Elation Professional, and Motor City Electric all collaborated on the project.