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Pistons officially announce move to downtown Detroit

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Detroit Pistons set to share Little Caesars Arena with Detroit Red Wings after agreement between Palace Sports & Entertainment and Illitch Organization

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The Detroit Pistons are moving back to the city of Detroit.

The words, spoken by Platinum Equity’s Mark Barnhill, put an end to, as he called it, the worst-kept secret in sports. But now it is official. This season will mark the final one at the historic Palace of Auburn Hills.

Starting with the 2017-18 season, the Pistons and Red Wings will share the new Little Caesars Arena.

The Pistons, as previously reported, also plan on opening a new practice facility and corporate headquarters nearby the site in downtown Detroit.

The move makes Detroit the first city with all four major sports organizations located in the core of the city.

The announcement, held at Cass Technical High School in Detroit featured Pistons owner Tom Gores, Christopher Illitch of the Illitch Organization, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

The event featured many sincere thanks and pats on the back from the major players and those doing all the background work.

Gores said leaving the Palace was a hard decision, and some acknowledgement of the Pistons’ former home will be on hand at the new arena.

“The incredible memories we have at the Palace, we own those. They don’t go anywhere,” Gores said. “(Moving) is the right call for our fans, for our players, how we can impact the community ... it is time for us to do it.”

Mayor Duggan lamented his lifetime of seeing major professional sports organizations leave or attempt to leave Detroit, and it was obvious he feels like bringing the final piece of the major sports puzzle back into the city is a major coup.

“This is further proof of Detroit’s resurgence and we look forward to welcoming the Pistons in their new home,” Mr. Duggan said.

Illitch, meanwhile, said Gores was a “visionary’ and that him deciding to bring the Pistons back into Detroit is a “watershed moment.”

The Pistons announced in a release in conjunction with the event that they will honor the history of the Palace during this final season with special events.

Few of the juicy details have been announced about this new partnership between Gores’ Platinum Equity and the Illitch Organization. Rest assured that Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, Rod Beard at the Detroit News, Aaron McMann at MLive and various contributors at Crains Business Detroit will have many more details in the days ahead.

For now, I’ve excerpted some of the bullet point details from the Pistons’ official release. From the team:

Fiscal and Economic Impact

From an economic standpoint, the move by the Pistons will provide substantial benefits to the local economy, which is already getting a shot in the arm from The District Detroit, a $1.2 billion sports and entertainment development.

Relocating the Pistons and building a new practice facility and corporate offices will generate an additional $596.2 million in estimated total economic impact in Metro Detroit and create more than 2,100 jobs, according to a study by the University of Michigan Center for Sport and Policy commissioned by PS&E. That includes an estimated 1,722 construction and construction-related jobs, and 442 permanent positions.

The move also could benefit Auburn Hills, Oakland County and the State of Michigan if the Palace of Auburn Hills, where the Pistons currently play, is redeveloped, according to a separate study by the U of M Center. In that event, the study projects a net increase of $7.3 million per year in new property and personal income taxes and the creation of 1,950 construction and permanent jobs.

Mr. Gores said it is premature to discuss the future of the Palace, but expects there will be a lot of attractive options.

“That is a valuable piece of property and we think there is a lot of opportunity to do some exciting things up there that would be very good for Oakland County,” he said.

Little Caesars Arena

Construction of Little Caesars Arena is on track for a September 2017 opening and the centralized location will make Pistons games more accessible to more fans in more parts of Southeast Michigan.

Exciting features of the new facility include:

  • The design will include a dramatic arena bowl incline with great sightlines that place fans closer to the action.
  • Increased pregame and postgame entertainment opportunities with expanded access to restaurants and gathering locations connected to The District Detroit – a new world-class sports and entertainment development revitalizing 50 blocks around the arena.
  • All-inclusive club spaces with enhanced luxury and amenities, parking and food and drink options.
  • State-of-the-art technology that includes WiFi capabilities with greater bandwidth, mobile ticketing, wayfinding, high-definition video, stunning acoustic sound and smart phone mobile applications that will take you from street to seat.
  • The “Via Concourse” - an indoor street-style shopping and dining experience surrounding the arena bowl that is highly activated on game nights and will be open to the community all year-round. Page Five
  • The “Piazza” – an outdoor urban plaza that will be regularly programmed with music and entertainment and serve as a signature new public gathering place in Detroit.

The District Detroit is one of the largest sports and entertainment developments in the country. Located in the heart of Detroit, this 50-block, mixed-use development led by the Ilitch organization unites six world-class theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues in one vibrant, walkable destination for people who want to live, work and play in an exciting urban environment. Home to the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions - The District Detroit represents the greatest density of professional sports teams in one downtown core in the country. Learn more at