Duggan: We get a team for $34 million; Pistons plan to help community

The Pistons playing under a new roof is just part of the story.

The deal relies on more than $34 million in taxpayer-backed bonds, plus plans for a community center and practice facility for the team.

The enormous Pistons banner on the parking garage of the new arena Tuesday speaks volumes. Detroit's Downtown Development Authority approved the memorandums of understanding - that brings the Detroit Pistons back to the motor city - specifically to Little Caesar's Arena in the fall of next year.

"Essentially we get a team for $34 million," Mayor Mike Duggan said. "Half of which is going to be savings from refinancing."

That's how much Duggan says it will cost Detroit to modify the arena now under construction to house the Pistons in addition to the Detroit Red Wings.

"The 250 (million) we have now plus the 34 (million) - the deal remains the same," Duggan said. "The teams are on the hook for all the expenses above that."

Other costs include $55 million for a Pistons practice facility - that the Pistons will pay for - they're also signing on to a community benefits agreement to hire locally and invest more than $2.5 million over six years to upgrade the city's youth basketball courts, giving 20,000 tickets each year to Detroiters - especially students.

But some in the audience concerned that's not enough for Detroit's children.

"Our boys are not going to school, not graduating, it starts at home and education is so important Mr. Mayor," said resident Steve Phillips.

"That's the last thing our young black kids need, is to play more basketball," said resident Cliff Woodards III. "I would encourage the Pistons to sponsor reading clinics, math clinics, science clinics."

During public comment, Woodards, an attorney, also expressed concern about the cost.

"I would think the Pistons organization would be able to scrape up $34 million without having to refinance bonds that the city is being a part of."

Duggan says the meeting is not to approve formalities in the agreement - that will happen in the months to come - and will require city council approval. But the board is confident - the deal expected to bring 2,000 jobs to the area - is now a go - after being discussed for so long.

"In the last 48 hours we've reached a tentative agreement with the teams," Duggan said. "We are briefing the DDA board on those terms first. We are briefing the public second and it doesn't matter when we announce anything, some would say we should have done it sooner. We're doing the best we can."

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