The Rich Get Richer


It was recently announced that the Detroit Pistons had a deal in place to relocate to the downtown area in the Motor City. The Pistons have not played regularly in the city limits of Detroit since 1978 when they called the Cobo Arena home. From 1979-1988, the Pistons played their home games at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan before settling into the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan which has been their home ever since. Since being in Auburn Hills, the Pistons have won three NBA Championships and they’ve become one of the better NBA franchises, but the allure of Downtown Detroit was too much for them to pass up on.

The distance between Detroit and Auburn Hills is roughly 33.5 miles as it has never been an issue for fans from Detroit to make the trek to the suburbs which also saw the Lions play in Pontiac from 1975-2001. But just as it always is with any business move, money is talking the loudest in Detroit City.

The 1970’s saw teams moving to the suburbs as the result of more citizens living in suburbia. But since 2000 we’ve seen a push by sports franchises to relocate to downtown areas as there has been a revitalization of metropolises. The Lions moved back to Detroit in 2002 which has seen their new home of Ford Field host the Super Bowl in February 2006. The Tigers have always played within Detroit’s city limits, but they began playing at Comerica Pack in 2000 which is adjacent to Ford Field. The Tigers have enjoyed success at Comerica which has seen them win a pair of American League Pennants in five playoff appearances since 2006, along with hosting the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2005. The Red Wings have called the Joe Louis Arena home since 1979, but they will be leaving next year in favor of the new Little Ceasers Arena, and they’ll have company there with the Pistons.

Dan Gilbert

But the Pistons return to Detroit isn’t without controversy. In recent years Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has spoken to Pistons owner Tom Gores multiple times about moving his team back to Detroit. Gilbert suggested this primarily due to the fact that he owns property in Downtown Detroit where he could benefit from having the Pistons move there. Gilbert went as far to suggest that the Pistons should “remove” Detroit from their name being that they play in Auburn Hills. Gilbert’s words drew the ire of Pistons president of basketball operations/head coach Stan Van Gundy who felt that the Cavaliers owner “should worry about his own team”. And whereas Van Gundy’s stance was strong, he doesn’t have the final say on the business matters for the Pistons which is an honor that goes to Gores as free enterprise and capitalism have won out as Gilbert is on a roll.

Gilbert found a superstar player in small forward LeBron James that was somehow willing to put the disparaging words of the Cavs owner from 2010 behind him and return to Cleveland in 2014 as the Cavaliers gave him the best chance to win an NBA Championship. And last June saw James bring a title to Cleveland, while Gilbert reaped all of the rewards. The economic collapse of 2007-2008 hit Detroit hard as the automotive industry was on life support which saw property value in and around Detroit drastically decline. Gilbert was quick to pounce on that opportunity and secure numerous properties in Downtown Detroit which now finds itself in the middle of a rebirth.

So the story will be that once again that the rich will get richer as he who owns the property and money will typically dictate how things are run. Regardless of what happens with the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Inc., which are just two of Gilbert’s businesses, he will continue to make money hand over fist due to the multiple properties that he owns in Downtown Detroit. And now with the Lions, Pistons, Red Wings, and Tigers all set to be within a stone’s throw of one another, the downtown area will be booming as the result of sports revenue there.

The only loser’s in this deal will be the folks who work at the Palace of Auburn Hills, or those that live close to the arena as those workers will more than likely be out of job now, while fans in the suburbs will have to commute to Detroit for games. But it is very difficult to stand in the way of progress, and Detroit’s economy should be set to really take off with the return of the Pistons; especially since they are once again becoming a perennial playoff team after missing the NBA Playoffs in six consecutive seasons.


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