Monday, June 8, 2015

Detroit Pistons reportedly may seek arena on incomplete Wayne County jail site; organization has 'no plans' yet to move

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 12:31 PM

Update (12:45 p.m., Monday, June 8): Apparently the Pistons organization is over this shit. In a statement to the News, an associate of Gores said the team has "no plans" to move away from Auburn Hills. So, there's that.

Original Post (11:55 a.m., Monday, June 8): The headline making rounds this morning — well, yesterday — is that Detroit Pistons' owner Tom Gores has a dream to move his NBA franchise to Detroit. 

Terry Foster, columnist for The Detroit News, on Monday dove into the likelihood of such a move, saying the team's recently-hired vice chairman will play a key role in bringing the Pistons downtown.

"That likely would mean a meeting with Chris Ilitch and Mike Ilitch from Olympia Entertainment, which has launched a $650 million arena and business project," writes Foster. 

One of the two quote-unquote "viable" options for Gores would be a seamless move into the new $450 million Detroit Red Wings arena, situated just north of I-75 and west of Woodward Avenue.

The other? We'll let Foster explain:

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.

The Hail Mary option, which reportedly would bank on aid from unicorn farms and a yet-to-be-discovered bottomless pile of gold, isn't explored any further by Foster. A spokesperson for Wayne County Executive Warren Evans couldn't be reached Monday morning. 

The likelihood of Evans ditching his longterm suggestion to finish the financially burdensome jail seems unlikely. The logistics, when actually taken into consideration, make it seem near-impossible: While the Pistons current home in Auburn Hills was financed entirely by private money, it's almost certain that Gores would seek public aid for a new arena in downtown — even with the help of Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert. (The Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park and the Lions' Ford Field were constructed with public money.) 


The Detroit Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has assumed a major role in the Ilitches new arena — 58 percent of the facility's construction costs will be covered by tax dollars collected by the DDA. Unless the authority manages to produce a pile of money, it's virtually tapped, at the moment. A substantial amount of money from the DDA's tax district has been dedicated to the new arena for years to come. It would take a remarkable about of political and financial finagling to make it happen, unless, perhaps, a new tax is floated to cover a percentage of costs, similar to the ballot drive that was waged for Comerica Park. And if that were to happen ... well, we're talking hypotheticals, so let's cross that path if it comes. 

So, to be clear, the point here is this: If the Pistons move downtown, the chance a new arena being constructed for the team is virtually non-existent.

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