Detroit Pistons’ introduction of Motor City Cruise the ‘next step’ in civic engagement

A rendering of the new Motor City Cruise arena.
by Vince Ellis
Special for

It wasn’t an original idea.

But it was the best idea.

Dylan Martin was the first of nine basketball fans to submit the winning entry of Motor City Cruise as the Detroit Pistons introduced the name of their G League affiliate on Friday.

“I wanted to stay away from using Detroit, use something different to try and differentiate it so Motor City is the other iconic name for Detroit. I thought of the Woodward Dream Cruise so I took the Cruise from that and paired it up with Motor City.

“There you have the name.”

The Motor City Cruise will begin play in the 2021-22 season. The franchise is partnering with Wayne State University to build $25 million facility on the western edge of the campus. The facility is under construction.

The news is more than the Pistons bringing all levels of their player development apparatus into the same area.

The news is more than another way for the Pistons to engage fans.

The news is the next step in the Pistons’ continued civic engagement since moving to downtown Detroit before the 2017-18 season.

“We’re excited about the future of the G League here in Detroit,” Pistons chief business officer Mike Zavodsky said. “This is the next step when you think of the brand new training facility we have, Little Caesars Arena, all state-of-the-art opportunities for us to engage the fan base and provide opportunities to engage in the community.”

The Detroit Pistons and the NBA G League announced in July that the Pistons purchased the G League’s Northern Arizona Suns affiliate from the Phoenix Suns. Pistons owner Tom Gores decided to engage the fans to decide a name.

“After considering many clever submissions, we are excited to announce the Motor City Cruise as the next professional sports franchise for the city of Detroit,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in the announcement.  “We wanted Pistons fans to help us with the naming process and engage with our new brand from the beginning.  Our new G League team will create an affordable entertainment option in Detroit and also play an important role in our player development goals.

“We thank those who took time to offer suggestions.” 

Martin, a Grandville native, wins four courtside season tickets and a VIP package for the inaugural season. The franchise will play its 24 home games at a new arena. At the start of the 2019-20 season, a record 42 percent of NBA players had G League experience.

The Pistons have had a long relationship with the Grand Rapids Drive, but it’s been a long-term goal to bring the G League affiliate closer. That helps development with young players being able to receive consistent playing time away from the high stakes of NBA games.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey, who previously coached the Toronto Raptors, pointed to the development of young stars like Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam.

“It’s the single most instrumental tool the Raptors had in building their players, building their infrastructure as far as players, front office staff – it was a training center. It really allowed that team and those players to have a venue to get better. This is going to be a huge teaching tool, a laboratory for us right here in the close proximity of our practice facility.”


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