Red Wings owner pondering Pistons purchase?

While we’re on the rumor front, there’s one out of Detroit that Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch is considering buying the Pistons and the Palace of Auburn Hills as part of a scheme to get a new arena for the Wings. The upshot, as George Malik writes at, is that Ilitches’ events company would add revenues, while “essentially freeing up the Palace to hold concerts on an almost exclusive basis while encouraging investors to fund a follow-on arena which would both succeed Joe Louis Arena and see most of its use as the home facility for both the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings.”

The basic notion should be familiar — it’s the same one that Newark and the state of New Jersey agreed to earlier this year, in sending the Nets to room (temporarily) with the Devils while the Meadowlands focuses on concerts. The idea is that by giving one venue monopoly control over concerts, they get to charge more, while sports teams cut costs by sharing a single home.

Whether the savings would be enough to make the math pencil out is dubious: Bill Shea of Crain’s Detroit Business notes that buying the Pistons and arena then building a new home for the sports teams would have “a cost approaching $1 billion,” which is an awful lot to spend just to gain some leverage over Bruce Springsteen. Shea also notes that the plan would “likely will include co-investors and some level of public financing,” which may be the whole point of the exercise: Would Detroit be more likely to fund a new arena if it meant not just keeping the Red Wings in town, but getting the Pistons back from the suburbs? Hard to say at this early stage, but as seen previously, it’s just the sort of maneuver that Ilitch excels at.

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6 comments on “Red Wings owner pondering Pistons purchase?

  1. Do you know if the ilitches still own all that property behind and north of the Fox Theater? They were consolidating around “Foxtown” when I was there 10 years ago.

    And hasn’t there been more recent (less that 10 years) talk of demolishing Joe Louis and recreating that part of the riverfront with more public access? I think that was predicated on a “Foxtown” arena…

  2. The whole “exclusivity” thing is asinine: why can’t they just agree on set rates for concerts and other events between the two buildings? Or let each building host concerts exclusively for six months out of the year? My only apprehension would be antitrust problems, but then I would think that the whole I’ll-take-sports-you-take-concerts would have just as many.

    What’s strange is that the Palace has enough room to host hockey, but never has (at least at the NHL level). It might make more sense for the Wings to take over the Palace and the Pistons to get a basketball-only arena than a new combo one (not that either is necessary, of course). You’d think hockey would be a better fit demographically in the suburbs than basketball would, anyway.

  3. I’m confused at what you’re implying with the last remark. It wasn’t Ilitch who threatened to leave Detroit, but the previous Red Wings owner. Of course, it doesn’t mean he wouldn’t do it.

    Relatedly, the team’s lucrative lease JUST expired on JLA, so it’ll be interesting to see what the terms of the presumably short-term lease are.

  4. I meant that “Let’s build an arena to bring the Pistons back!” might be an easier sell than “Let’s build an arena to move the Red Wings across town!”

    As for the bit about Ilitch’s track record, click the link.

  5. Excuse my ignorance but doesn’t the PAH already has the premium seating that teams in other cities really want? Wouldn’t the Red Wings basically solve their so-called problem just by moving in?

    Btw, here’s the website for The Palace:

    The Red Wings don’t need a new arena. They can just move into Auburn Hills.

  6. Sure, they could move in. But they don’t want to be tenants with all the “extra” revenue going to the Pistons. I’m sure the Wings would tell you that they would be no better off at the Palace absent ownership of the venue than they are at JLA now.

    Has Mrs. Davidson actually said she is going to sell the Pistons & arena, does anyone know? I know it was discussed last winter, but I’ve not seen a “for sale” announcement anywhere.

    Lots of empty seats at the JLA these days. I wonder if they might not do better out in the Palace. But it’s hard to imagine Detroit without the Wings “downtown”, more or less.

    The new Olympia, anyone? Hey, you could even sell naming rights to the beer company…

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