How the Detroit Pistons hope New Center headquarters can be used for ‘frank conversations’
Special guests dropped by a recent Detroit Pistons practice.
Invited to team headquarters for a panel discussion, a group of Black leaders walked onto the playing court to take pictures with Pistons coach Dwane Casey and the players.
Casey welcomed the group with open arms.
“This is beautiful to have this many African-American leaders with us today,” Casey said. “It's a great example, not only for our players, but for our kids. You don't have to just be a sports figure to be a motivational person or a person that can be a great example to our kids.
“You folks are an example for all of us.”
Basketball is typically the No. 1 topic for discussion at the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center (PPC). But when the PPC was built several years ago, part of the vision was for the Pistons’ home base to be a place for community gatherings. Community leaders watching practice and the subsequent panel discussion featuring Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem and Pistons general manager Troy Weaver was that vision come to life.
“As we continue to build relationships in this city, I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to have Black business and civic leaders here along with clergy,” Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem said.
“The one lesson I learned since coming here is we can't do this ourselves. It's all about the partnerships and the relationships we forge here, and that's what's going to propel our success and it's going to help us make a greater impact in this community.”
Why the Detroit Pistons hosted Black leaders at the PPC
The PPC, which opened in 2019 and houses Pistons employees, was designed to be part of the neighborhood – not an uninviting fortress. There are meeting spaces. The panel discussion was held in a room that overlooks 2nd Avenue and provides solid views out into New Center.
A retail presence provides entry points for the general public. After closing for most of the pandemic, Plum Market recently re-opened on the ground floor. A Planet Fitness inside the PPC is scheduled to open soon.
It was part of the plan to hold community events, but the pandemic limited in-person gatherings so Tellem was happy to welcome guests, which included former Detroit mayors Dennis Archer and Dave Bing.
After lunch, former Piston and Bally Sports Detroit analyst Greg Kelser moderated the panel featuring Tellem, Duggan and Troy Weaver.
Tellem and Duggan went into detail about the move downtown while Weaver spoke on his efforts to restore the Pistons’ tradition.
Afterward, the audience was invited to ask questions. The first one was addressed to Duggan, who was asked about gun violence. Duggan is up for reelection next month.
“We got to get folks not to put the guns under their belts in the first place,” Duggan said. “That's really the challenge for all of us …”
Tellem was glad to see the exchange.
“We want to put these groups together to have honest, open and frank conversations,” said Tellem, who joined the Pistons in 2015 and was a lead negotiator and planner on the move downtown. “I'm glad that people weren't afraid to ask those questions. (Duggan) didn't run away from the question. He was responsive to those questions regarding gun violence and what he wanted to achieve in his next four years.”
Real estate developer and business consultant Rod Hardamon, who is a lifelong city resident who graduated from Detroit Renaissance, was impressed.
“It means a lot to have stewards of the community, have anchor institutions move into the neighborhoods,” Hardamon said. “I believe in community neighborhood development from a real estate perspective, and the Pistons believe that.”