Pistons make it official - announce move to downtown Detroit

It is official - "Detroit Basketball" is coming back to the D.

A joint press conference with Ilitch Holdings, the Pistons announced the franchise move to downtown Detroit. The team will be playing out of the new Little Caesars Arena, sharing the Red Wings home.

"This is the right call, for our players, for the fans, for the how we can impact the community," owner Tom Gores said at the press conference. "This is an incredible arena, I've been so impressed with it. I don't think I've seen so much thought into every detail."

Gores said there are no immediate plans for the Palace, but spoke about the impact to the city that the new arena will make.

Gores also spoke about the partnership going forward with the Ilitches and what it was like to work with them.

In a DDA meeting before the press conference, It  will cost about $35- to $40 million to modify the arena. A new Pistons practice facility was already announced as in the works near the site, located in the District Detroit. Mayor Mike Duggan said that facility is expected to be finished in 2018. Duggan said that no formal approval was needed from the DDA, and that early next year the board will receive the financial details.

As part of the move, the Pistons announced plans to give back to the city by investing $2.5 million over six years in more than 60 community youth basketball facilities, camps and about 20,000 free tickets.

Christopher Ilitch described the announcement as a watershed moment for the city, region and state.

"Tom Gores and the Pistons will contribute tremendously toward the incredible, positive momentum underway in Detroit, making our city stronger, which benefits residents, businesses and visitors not only in the city, but also across our region and state," he said in a press release. "This is a bold move that will have a positive effect throughout our entire community."

Ilitich said that Detroit will stand alone, having all four major sports homes within walking distance downtown. 

With the Pistons and Red Wings playing under one roof just blocks from the Tigers' Comerica Park, and Ford Field, home to the Lions, Detroit will be the only North American city to have each of the four major professional sports leagues housed within four blocks.

"I can't believe we're here, and I think I speak for many who have lived in the city of Detroit," quipped Mayor Mike Duggan. Duggan added that when speaking with Chris Ilitich about upcoming projects, he requested that "I want the Pistons" a long time ago.

Duggan also said that he attended the last Lions game at the old Tiger Stadium with his father and remembered his anger at riding the bus the following year to Pontiac.

"I told my dad how can they call it the Detroit Lions when they play in Pontiac," he said, adding that he remembers the Pistons moving to Auburn Hills and when the Tigers briefly entertained moving to Dearborn in the 1980s.

Duggan said next year will be the first time in 40 years that all four professional teams will be back in Detroit. 

"This is a historic day for our franchise, and for the City of Detroit," Mr. Gores said in a press release. "We're moving to a beautiful new arena that will provide a state-of-the-art fan experience, and we're investing in the future of Detroit.

"I've always believed that a sports franchise is a community asset with the power to unite and inspire people," he added. "There's a big responsibility that goes with that, but there's also a big payoff. Not just for the city of Detroit, but for the whole region. Detroit is rising, reinventing itself. The Pistons are doing the same. We're in this together, and we couldn't be more excited about that."

The Pistons are currently playing their 29th and final season at The Palace of Auburn Hills and will honor that history throughout the season in a series of special event nights highlighting the players, championships and special moments that made The Palace one of the nation's premier venues.

"The Palace has been an incredible home filled with great memories and has served the franchise well for nearly three decades," Mr. Gores said. "The entire Pistons organization appreciates the dedication of everyone in Auburn Hills and Oakland County who helped make the Palace so successful."

Mr. Gores said that Ethan Davidson, whose father William Davidson built The Palace and owned the team for 37 years, will help serve as a curator of Pistons history in the new arena.

"The Pistons have such a rich history and it's important that our new home pays respect to that great tradition," said Mr. Gores. "Ethan and his family contributed so much to that legacy and I'm grateful that he's agreed to be part of this transition as we set the stage to create more great memories in the years ahead."

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