Detroit Pistons’ neighborhood program going strong while following COVID-19 protocols

A 2019 clinic.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images

by Khalil Dawsey, Special for

Late last month, the Detroit Pistons began their annual outreach to city neighborhoods.

That outreach is ongoing and following COVID-19 safety protocols.

The Pistons’ neighborhood program is going strong despite the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the second year in a row that the program is being held to support city neighborhoods.

The program was announced when Pistons senior VP of marketing Alicia Jeffreys joined Detroit mayor Mike Duggan at a news conference.

“The health of our community is our top priority,” Jeffreys said. “All employees are trained in COVID safety protocols, all activities will be properly social distanced, using non-shared materials as a part of the CDC guidelines we’re following.”

The program ends the week of Sept. 23.

The program occurs weekly at Adams Butzel Recreation Complex, Clark Park, Palmer Park, Pingree Park and Jayne Field/Lasky Recreation Center in Detroit. The program and all its activities are free of charge. The programming is funded by the William Davidson Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Pistons. An urban planning firm is overseeing activities at the parks and is working alongside other local organizers to execute community engagement efforts, steward programming, and implement necessary COVID-19 safety protocols.

The programming offers more than basketball. Many activities were featured during a recent visit to Butzel.

A life-sized chessboard was displayed prominently. Jenga, Spikeball, bowling, and kickball are among other games offered. Programming is available Wednesday through Sunday and live music, dance, yoga, and art are among other activities offered.

Of course, there’s basketball.  Skill technique drills and clinics are being offered as part of the Pistons Academy program.  Youth and adults are encouraged to participate.

The activities come in a setting where the kids are free to be creative.

“Although we have six, seven activities, each one can turn into five different things at any time,” program aide Cameron Snow said.  “The kids love to turn the games into their own new thing and as long as they’re having fun, it doesn’t matter to me.

Jeffries said at the news conference no activity is full contact, and the program provides free masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. After programming concludes, program employees sanitize and deep-clean all materials that are touched, allowing for the activity to continue the following day. 

City Chief Parks Planner Meagan Elliott said: “The Pistons have worked closely with the health department to figure out how to make everyone feel safe.”

The program builds on the six-week program at Bennett and Rouge parks in the summer of 2019 and reaffirms the Pistons’ commitments to Detroit’s parks. 

“Our parks initiative continues to expand and adapt, delivering important benefits for the community at a time when kids and Detroiters of all ages need opportunities to stay active in a safe and responsible way,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said when the program was announced. “I’ve always believed that a sports franchise is a community asset with the power to unite and inspire people. I’m proud to see new partners coming together to maximize the impact of this program.”

Khalil Dawsey

Special for


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