DETROIT – The Pistons’ return to downtown Detroit in 2017 necessitated the construction of a new practice facility nearer their new home at Little Caesars Arena. It didn’t necessarily have to be the biggest and best the NBA had to offer, but that’s what the Pistons will call home when their new Henry Ford Pistons Performance Center opens in October.
Located about 2 miles north of Little Caesars Arena and a few blocks south of the Fisher Building in Detroit’s New Center area, the Pistons Performance Center will combine all of the best features Pistons front-office executives found in their nationwide canvassing of the latest generation of training facilities – not just the NBA, but a slew of college athletic facilities, as well.
At 185,000 square feet, the PPC is the largest practice center and team headquarters in the NBA and its creature comforts would be mind-boggling to the Chuck Daly-era Bad Boys who practiced at Oakland University or – when it wasn’t available – at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Dombrowski Fieldhouse.
Players will park in covered and heated spaces steps away from their own private entrance. They’ll come first to a concierge desk to handle all assortment of personal tasks, symbolic of what the PPC represents for the organization and repeated in scores of its features – a way to simplify the lives of Pistons players to allow them to devote their energies to their craft.
“For the players, it was designed with access and ease in mind,” Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem said last week while leading a tour of the PPC. “This is more than a practice facility. This is their house. And my experience (as a longtime prominent player agent) is when they have a place like this, they’ll treat it as their home.”
There’s never been “a place like this” in the NBA, though, with every conceivable piece of the latest training, conditioning, rehabilitation and recovery equipment – hot tub, cold tub, treadmill pool, sleep tank, etc. – slated for installation over the next eight weeks. A barbershop will be on site. Plum Market will staff a 24-hour kitchen in case players want to get up shots late at night or grab a nutritious bite after a workout.
The first of the PPC’s four floors is devoted to players, coaches and the training staff, including spacious players lounge and locker areas that will be bathed in natural light from skylights. There are two full courts with portable seating to accommodate special events or to be available for high school games, perhaps.
The third and fourth floors will be occupied by Pistons business operations, while the second floor will house offices for the team’s front-office personnel. Assistant general manager Pat Garrity and chief of staff Andrew Loomis were the point men in the front office in visiting other practice facilities at both the pro and college levels and drawing up a wish list of the players and coaches for what the ideal facility would feature. Whatever they asked for, they’ve said often, Pistons owner Tom Gores enthusiastically endorsed.
“The purpose was to give our players the very best,” Tellem said. “That was Tom Gores’ vision. Here, I think we will be able to give them the very best, the most comprehensive amenities.”
One element Tellem wanted to integrate into the PPC that makes it unique among NBA facilities is the connection to the city and openness to the public. The second floor includes a large indoor/outdoor space to host functions and will be made available to outside groups, Tellem said. Plum Market will occupy a 5,000-square foot corner of the building for a café and retail area and Blink Fitness a 15,000-square foot workout facility accessible to the public.
In two years, the PPC will be home to the Pistons’ own G League team, as well, increasing the value of the relationship to the Pistons and making it easier to move players up or down as needed. It would be easy for a young player, for instance, to suit up for the Pistons on a Tuesday night, practice with them on Wednesday morning, then suit up for the G League team on Wednesday night and leave for a Pistons road trip Thursday morning.
Tellem expects that as players begin to find living quarters nearer the PPC, more will be open to the prospect of spending some or all of their off-seasons training in Detroit. It will also serve as a useful recruiting tool on some level. The Pistons typically bring in 60 to 80 players ahead of the NBA draft for workouts and now they’ll leave with the impression of the PPC as an unrivaled practice home. A few years later, as they’re hitting free agency, it won’t hurt to have that association with the Pistons.
“Keeping players, attracting players, starts with ownership,” Tellem said. “This is the best facility in the NBA.”