Detroit’s professional basketball team, The Pistons, is saying goodbye to its stadium at The Palace of Auburn Hills and relocating to downtown Detroit.
Little Caesars Arena is still under construction in downtown Detroit. Beginning in the Fall of 2017, the new stadium will host both the Red Wings, Detroit’s national hockey team, and now the Pistons.
With the Pistons relocating to a shared space downtown, Mayor Mike Duggan says Detroit will be the only city with four major sports teams in the downtown district.
“This is the right call,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said. “Four our players, how we can impact the community, it is the right call. It is time.”
Gores, Duggan, President and CEO of Illitch holdings Chris Illitch and NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the move at a press conference at Cass Technical High School in Detroit on Tuesday.
For Little Caesar’s Arena to effectively house both a NHL and NBA team, changes to the stadium’s blueprints were made after construction was already underway. The changes add $34.5 million to the cost of building a stadium.
“If you start out designing an arena for both basketball and hockey, it’s been done a number of times,” Duggan said. “But when your stadium’s already half-done, simple things like building locker rooms require the moving of elevators, and so it was going to be very expensive.”
The added construction cost will be paid for with public money. However, it won’t use dollars from Detroit’s general fund. The Detroit Downtown Development authority will use money generated by refinancing bonds it sold in 2014 to originally finance the construction of Little Caesar’s Arena.
Duggan says the $34.5 million will be generated through those savings, and by extending the term of the bonds an additional three years. Palace Sports and Entertainment and Olympia, the parent companies of the Pistons and Red Wings respectively, are financially responsible if the project goes over budget further.
“These are funds that come out of the DDA. By law they may only be used for infrastructure and development purposes downtown.” Duggan said. “We couldn’t think of anything more important than bringing the Pistons back home.”
The pistons have also agreed to build a $50 million practice facility in Detroit and relocate their corporate offices downtown in 2018.
Duggan said soon after he was elected to office in 2013, he met with Chris Illitch and said he wished for the pistons to be play downtown.
“Chris (Illitch) said to me that day ‘Mike I promise you if there is anything in my power I can do to get the pistons to come down to our arena, I’ll do it,” Duggan said. “And Chris kept his word.”
“Watching our city decline over the years has been difficult,” Duggan said. “But emotionally the most painful experiences have been when our sports franchises either left town, or tried to leave town.”
A report by a University of Michigan economist and commissioned by Palace Sports and Entertainment estimates the economic impact of the Piston’s relocation will approach 600 million dollars.
As part of a community benefits agreement, Palace Sports and Entertainment will contribute $2.5 million to restoring over 60 public basketball courts in Detroit, as well as a promise that 51% of construction jobs for the practice facility will hire Detroit residents.
The deal still is still awaiting formal approval by the Detroit downtown Development Authority, and the National Basketball Association.
Little Caesars Arena is expected to open in September, 2017.