This afternoon, the Detroit Pistons announced they would be moving back to downtown Detroit and will share the new Little Caesars Arena with the Detroit Red Wings next year. Last month, Pistons owner Tom Gores announced that the team was “close to a deal” to move back to downtown Detroit. Next season will mark the first year the Pistons played in the city of Detroit since the 1977-78 season at Cobo Arena.
According to the Detroit Free Press and University of Michigan experts, the move downtown would create almost $600 million in economic impact for the city, as well as 2,000 direct and indirect jobs. The Pistons would also be considering potential downtown locations for executive offices and a 60,000 square-foot, multi-million dollar practice facility.
Along with those jobs could come a potential partnership between Gores’ Palace & Sports Entertainment and the Illitch Family’s Olympia Entertainment. It’s also possible that the two companies could join forces for broadcasting rights.
As for the Palace of Auburn Hills, Gores and the Pistons would tear the venue down and redevelop the property. The Palace sits on some of the most in-demand land for automotive headquarters and testing grounds, and it’s likely that the Pistons could sell the land to the highest bidder.
Ian Thibodeau of the Detroit News tweeted a picture of a banner on the side of the LCA parking garage that featured five Pistons players and ‘Detroit Basketball’ alongside a Little Caesars logo. As Thibodeau said, if you weren’t convinced, there’s your sign.
Former Detroit Pistons player and 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups tweeted that the move “will be good for the city and the organization.”
Little Caesars Arena will be a new building that is well-suited for both hockey and basketball. The ice of the rink and the wood of the floor can be changed out, and the swap can take as few as 90 minutes and as long as one day. The seating capacity of LCA will be over 20,000, and the Palace currently can hold just over 24,000. There will also be an open-air plaza on the western side of the arena that will accommodate more than 4,000 people who can watch an event — a hockey or basketball game — on a large screen.
The arena is a part of the “District Detroit” project, a revitalization of downtown Detroit that will feature thriving businesses, parks, restaurants and event destinations. The Pistons would be another asset to the project, especially if the team is able to make a run in the playoffs.
One problem with the move is the interior of Little Caesars Arena. The building was originally designed for one team and one team only — the Red Wings. It would be hard for fans, players and executives to get the full experience of enjoying a basketball game if there are only Red Wings banners, artwork and memorabilia around the stadium. However, the estimated cost to modify the Little Caesars Arena to accommodate the Pistons is in between $35 and $40 million.
The Pistons almost certainly wouldn’t be considering anywhere else in Detroit. Joe Louis Arena will be demolished after the 2016-17 NHL season, and the only other realistic option is Cobo Arena, but the Pistons left Cobo in 1978 because it was “too old” at the time.
It was announced today with their move that the Pistons agreed to donate $2.5 million over six years to create more than 60 basketball facilities in Detroit. The team also agreed to give 20,000 tickets to per year to youth and city residents as part of community benefits for the move downtown.
Photo by Steve Marowski