As expected, the news that Mike Ilitch has the lead in buying the Detroit Pistons has led to a full-on media frenzy. Among the highlights:
- A new downtown arena to host both the Pistons and Ilitch’s Red Wings would cost $500 million or more, sports consultant Marc Ganis tells the Detroit News. Ganis added, “It’s next to impossible to do that without some taxpayer help.”
- Detroit Free Press sports columnist Michael Rosenberg writes that the whole reason Ilitch wants the Pistons and their Auburn Hills arena is to have a threat to move the Pistons to the suburbs, in order to be able to squeeze Detroit for money for a new arena. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing nonetheless declared himself “elated” at the prospect of Ilitch owning the Pistons, which either means he doesn’t think he’s really going to be blackmailed for a new arena, or he’s looking forward to it.
- Getting a third pro sports team to play downtown could bolster Detroit’s image as an “urban adult entertainment destination,” says University of Michigan professor Christopher Leinberger, who notes that the city already “boasts the third largest walkable concentration of casinos in the country, behind only Las Vegas and Atlantic City,” and “has the nation’s third largest number of live theater seats, trailing only New York City and Houston.” (Houston?) Not to mention the other “adult entertainment” options available across the bridge in Windsor.
The virtues of making Detroit into the next Las Vegas aside, the arena battle looks like it has the potential to get really ugly really fast if Ilitch wins his bid. I’ll make sure I don’t have any other plans for November…