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Fans are in for a surprise

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Whether it’s hosting Thanksgiving dinner for family or inviting friends over to watch the big game on TV, entertaining is something that most of us can relate to.

But it gets a lot trickier when the guest list includes 20,066 exuberant fans, which is why the Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment have looked to improve the experience for everyone who visits Joe Louis Arena to cheer on their beloved Red Wings this season.

The company-wide challenge, constituted this summer, is intended to make guests feel welcome and provide them with lasting memories each and every time that they visit the Wings’ home, said Tom Wilson, president and CEO of Olympia Entertainment.

“Our task for every leader in the organization, every person in the organization, is how do we make the experience of coming to a game at Joe Louis Arena better?” Wilson said. “It can be little tweaks as we look at the details, and it can be something a little more consequential that requires financial investments. We can increase focus from everybody on the personalization of the interaction that we have with our fans, one-on-one.”

Certainly sounds simple enough.

But there are many working parts to wide-ranging initiatives, such as the ones that fans will see put into motion – and experience first-hand – as they arrive for each game this season, starting with Friday’s NHL season-opener when the Wings host the Ottawa Senators.

Everything about the fan experience – from doors opening now 90-minutes before puck-drop, to increased digital communication with fans throughout each game day, to promotional giveaways and improved amenities in the arena – will be done from a guest-first point-of-view.

“The thing that we wanted to stress to everybody is that, as everybody knows, these are difficult times and people have a lot of ways to spend their discretionary dollars,” Wilson said. “And when they opt to come and spend those dollars with us, then they need to be treated as a guest and not like a customer, and there’s a big difference, and hopefully, all of our guests will feel that this year.”

Among many of the changes that guests will see at The Joe this season include, a new luxury party suite, more giveaway nights, an increased game day experience through digital media, and a very special opening night show.

Here is a sampling of what guests can expect this season.

Each night, doors to the The Joe will open 90-minutes prior to game time, thus giving fans an extra half-hour of access to the arena where they can further soak up the one-of-a-kind experience of attending a Wings’ home game.

Meanwhile, the brand new Volunteer Energy Red Patrol is set to help invigorate the JLA faithful each night, as the energetic promo team will amp up in-arena activities, effectively augmenting an already-electrifying atmosphere unlike any in pro sports.

As part of an ongoing commitment to fostering dialogue with their fans, the Wings are asking fans for suggestions to continuously improve the in-game experience again this season at The Joe. Guests are asked to contact Ayron Sequeira, executive producer for event entertainment, through her Twitter account @AyronAtTheWings. Guests can also make requests for in-arena songs by sending tweets to T. Campbell, The Joe’s longtime DJ, at @TheHockeyJockey.

“Connecting with our fans, in a meaningful and productive manner, is extremely important to us,” Sequeira said. “This is definitely a key component of our creating the most dynamic and engaging in-game experience possible.

“We sincerely hope that people will continue to provide us with both positive feedback and constructive criticism moving forward.”

It’s expected that when guests arrive at JLA, they will see plenty of star-power performances on the ice, but now a fresh new approach to training Olympia and JLA colleagues has put all-stars behind the scenes, too.
When (fans) opt to come and spend those dollars with us, then they need to be treated as a guest and not like a customer, and there’s a big difference. ...  - Tom Wilson, Olympia Entertainment President & CEO

By linking good times to great service, each memorable event is complimented with stellar guest service, which is the intended goal of Guest Connect, Wilson said.

“The Guest Connect program is designed to empower all of our employees, everyone that you might interact with as you come through the doors at The Joe, to improve your experience,” Wilson said. “It can be as little as saying, ‘Thank you for coming’ on the way in, ‘And enjoy the game!’ to ‘Thank you for being with us, and be careful going home’ on your way out the door. And everything in-between.”

Olympia Entertainment recently launched its innovative training program focused on the guest experience and providing first-class treatment from beginning to end, to insure that each game – on and off the ice – is a memory worth repeating.

Guest Connect is comprised of five principles covering everything from making a great first impression and proper body language to exceeding guest expectations and thanking them upon departure.

“We can’t control anything that happens on the ice,” Wilson said. “But what we can control is the interaction with our guests and the ease that they move around The Joe, and the courtesy that is extended to them. That we can control, so the major part of our focus this year will be trying to control the little things, and the little moments where we interact with people.”

When guests’ needs are understood, then everyone from the parking attendants, to ticket-takers to concession workers, and those who answer the phones, can fulfill those needs on a personally level, without passing it off, but by seeing it through to the individual satisfaction of each guest. So while you watch your favor Wings’ players, know that a conscious effort to make you feel at home is constantly at work behind the scenes.

A new suite level option is available to fans this season.

Made possible through a new partnership with the nation’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch, the new 970-square foot space on the west-end of the arena, will offer a unique in-game experience.

“We’ve taken three suites on the west-end of the building and turned them into one giant suite with a retractable wall through the middle, so you can split it,” said Rob Croll, the Wings’ director of corporate partnership sales. “You can either have a 60-person party area or it can be two 30-person suites.”

The two sides of the new space mirror each other with both sides featuring their own bars, buffet areas and restrooms. Each side will also be furnished with a pair of flat-screen TVs.

“It’s going to be cool,” Croll said. “It’s got a modern-feel to it. It will have Red Wings and Bud Light imagery. It will feel like that sports bar with flat screens with a lot of Bud Light iconography with a real modern, up-to-date feel to it. It’s going to be a cool space.”

The Bud Light suite is available to rent per game. For more information, contact Sara Daniel at 313-471-3345 or Ryan Coyle at 313-471-3208.

Besides Budweiser, the Red Wings also extended their partnership with Chrysler Group. The longest-running automotive member of the Wings’ corporate partnership family, Chrysler’s in-arena presence at The Joe will be greatly enhanced as part of the new agreement, with several other exciting new elements also set to be implemented this season.

Because of sponsorships like Chrysler, the fans can expect plenty of enhancements to the in-game experience, Croll said.

“We’re taking the Chrysler partnership to the next level,” he said. “What does that mean to fans? It means that you’re going to see more promotions, more giveaway-type nights.”

Increased activities during the first and second intermissions will feature veteran staples like Score-O and Musical Beanbags, plus newbies like Rapid Fire shootout, remote control truck races (presented by Chrsyler), and the Motor City Music Minute, presented in partnership with 88.7 FM, which will showcase the work of Detroit area artists during the second intermissions this season.

“Score-O is a fan-favorite with prizes every night,” Croll said. “And Chrysler will still be supporting the Three Stars of the Game, where at the end of each game, the Wings’ stars will give an autographed stick to a fan over the glass.”

The Red Wings’ Season Ticket Holder of the Game returns for the third season, but with Amway onboard as a sponsor. This season, the Season Ticket Holder of the Game will receive a Red Wings jersey, and a gift pack from Amway that includes Nutrilite vitamins and Artistry beauty products.

Besides the ever-popular annual games on the night before Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, the Wings will host a very special night when the successful careers of Mark Howe and Mickey Redmond will be celebrated Nov. 23 vs. Calgary. The former Wings will be recognized for being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Howe will be enshrined, and Redmond will receive the prestigious Foster Hewitt Award, on Nov. 11 in Toronto.

In addition to season-long game promotions such as Military Mondays, Two-Fer Tuesdays, Bobblehead Thursdays, Fathead Fridays, Meijer Kids Nights, and Social Saturdays, compelling promotions and bevy of desirable giveaway nights highlight the 2011-12 schedule.

Besides the Stanley Cup playoffs, opening night is the most exciting night of a new season. And the Red Wings plan to kick-off the season in glamorous fashion this Friday with the unveiling of an exciting new opening video.

“We’re putting a lot more energy and emphasis into the open and every aspect of the game presentation that we have to make everything a little bit better than it was before,” Wilson said. “And I think the fans will see the difference.”

Shot using a state-of-the-art Phantom Flex HD camera, the new video showcases game-action intensity from a player’s perspective, while also paying tribute to the Motor City’s rich hockey history.

Following Friday’s special video presentation, the entire Red Wings’ roster for the 2011-12 season will be introduced in-advance of the official pre-game ceremony, with fan favorite Karen Newman then set to sing both the Canadian and American national anthems. Fans are asked to be in their seats by 6:50 p.m. in order to experience the festivities in their entirety.

“We want to throw kudos to the players, because much of what we’ve done, including the open, you don’t do without a lot of cooperation – hours dedicated and donated – by the players, because they understand the importance of the fans and the fan experience,” Wilson said. “They are extraordinarily grateful about the support that they’ve had for years from the fans.
“Hopefully, Friday’s a great evening, and a win is the icing on the cake.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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