Red Wings almost ready to build new taxpayer-subsidized arena, are Pistons next in line?

The Detroit Historic District Commission is set to vote this afternoon on whether to allow Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch to demolish the historic (but long-vacant) Park Avenue Hotel to make way for his arena district construction project, which promises to draw to a close the city’s debates about sports arena construc — oh, come on now, seriously?

Pistons owner Tom Gores launched Project “Big Math,” a sweeping idea for change and economic growth for the city of Detroit and state of Michigan, when he hired agent Arn Tellem last week as vice chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment.

One of Tellem’s first agenda items when he takes over Aug. 3 is to explore bringing the Pistons downtown from Auburn Hills. … The Pistons have two viable options. They can move into the new Red Wings arena, which is scheduled to open in 2017, and share it with Olympia Entertainment. There is also a Hail Mary option to tear down the half-built Wayne County Jail and build an arena in conjunction with Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert.

This is still pretty much just at the rumor stage — and the Pistons say they have “no plans” to move from Auburn Hills, for what it’s worth — but still, there’s at least the chance that Detroit may end up talking about building not one but two downtown arenas. Not bad for a city that’s bankrupt. Or, looked at another way, not good.

10 comments on “Red Wings almost ready to build new taxpayer-subsidized arena, are Pistons next in line?

  1. I wouldn’t read read too much into this story. Gores is in the business of private equity, that’s how he operates and thinks. So unless the City or Dan Gilbert build him an arena, it makes no financial sense to move back downtown until the Palace is truly outdated. It won’t be for a while since he recently spent over $40 million on upgrades. He’s a savvy businessman who will sell the Pistons when the time/price is right…

  2. There will NOT be TWO new arenas downtown. The market can’t support that.

    All the arguments have been presented, and one of only TWO things will happen…either the Pistons move to the new Wings arena, or they stay put. Period.

  3. If the Islanders can play hockey in a basketball arena what is stopping the Pistons from playing basketball in an hockey arena?

  4. Shouldn’t be a problem for basketball at all. The problem with the Islanders at Barclays is that it is a basketball arena retrofitted for hockey. Typical ‘multi-purpose’ arenas are built for hockey and then additional seating placed for basketball because of the size differential between a hockey rink and basketball court.

  5. Presumably the Pistons’ answer would be “Ilitch wants too much rent/doesn’t want to share enough revenues.”

    I agree that two arenas in central Detroit is ridiculous, but plenty of other cities have done it.

  6. I’ve always been a supporter of the Pistons moving downtown and sharing the arena with the Red Wings. I was never big on the idea of building an arena with public funds in a city that went bankrupt but if the arena is going to be there, you might as well take advantage of it.

    Nothing wrong with the Palace but the location is awful. I realize that the Pistons won attendance titles but that has more to do with the size of the arena and the fact that the team sold cheap tickets and were title contenders. The down years are when you realize you’re in a bad location and Piston attendance numbers reflect that.

    With MLB, NBA and the NHL, downtown is where you want to be. The fact that the Pistons are the only team in the NBA that plays in the suburbs and all but 4 of the other teams play not only in the city but in it’s downtown core leads me to believe that they will make the move when this thing is built.

    OTOH, building a 2nd arena in the city would be an absolute disaster. Terrible idea. The Red Wings and Pistons need to share, cross promote and be a part of the city and it’s rebuilding efforts. Keep the Palace and make it a backup building. Due to all the sporting events that will take place downtown, there will be tons of overflow and a need for a second arena. While it may be a problem continuing to get people to commit to 41 games a year in the suburbs, attending 1 or 2 concerts or kid’s events isn’t that tough. When you get down to it, 80% of the events that take place at the Palace are non Piston events. Look for that number to go up with them not taking up so many dates assuming they move downtown.

    The best option for Gores and Ilitch would be to just split all non sporting events at both arenas right down the middle. If Ilitch gives Gores access to 50% of the downtown action then Gores should do likewise for Ilitch at Palace events. Instead of competing and cutting each other off, it would make sense to join forces and schedule accordingly to maximize as many events for both buildings. This is why so many businesses merge in the first place.

  7. “The down years are when you realize you’re in a bad location and Piston attendance numbers reflect that.”
    Down years & low attendance are basically a given, no matter the location. Unless you’re the Rays & the Cubs, the exceptions (great teams, low attendance / crap teams, high attendance).

  8. I said this with the Atlanta Braves moving to the suburbs, but the Pistons could keep the old arena and play 15 games a year there. Call them “Suburb Nights” (I’ll resist “White Nights”) when those who don’t liked to mix with the unwashed urbanites (or, less cynically, just don’t want to drive downtown) can go. The Red Wings also could play a handful of games there.

  9. I live in the Detroit area and have followed this issue–full disclosure, I was on the board of the Tiger Stadium Fan Club. I have particularly been interested in how the political and community leadership has dealt with it.

    The inescapable conclusion is that they have learned nothing because they want to learn nothing.

    I finally broke my boycott of Comerica Facility several seasons ago. I remember how it and Ford Field were going to spark all sorts of massive economic development in the area. If that’s happened, I can’t see it. I’m willing to bet real money that after the arena is built, the development around it will not be what has been promised.