‘It’s a win for Detroit’ – Pistons cement commitment with move to state-of-the-art training center

Pistons owner Tom Gores’ vision to leverage the franchise as a spur for Detroit’s renaissance took another step with the opening of the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center
Brian Sevald (NBAE/Getty)

DETROIT – Mike Duggan would have welcomed the Pistons and their gleaming new training center and corporate headquarters with open arms even if the new $90 million building they celebrated at Monday’s opening had been an armed encampment walled off to the people who call the New Center area home.

But Pistons Owner Tom Gores had much more in mind when he committed the Pistons to not just play their games in downtown Detroit but to live the creed he’s preached since buying the Pistons eight years ago – to help drive the city’s renaissance.

So Monday became a very special day for the mayor, the Pistons owner and the dozens of others invested in Detroit’s comeback story who gathered on the two regulation-sized NBA basketball courts dressed up in Pistons red, white and blue off of Amsterdam Avenue.

“It’s an exciting day, a milestone for our organization,” Gores said at the unveiling of the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center, at 185,000 square feet the largest facility of its kind in the NBA. “When we took on the team, we knew we were stewards – not owners, but stewards of a community asset. What we have here is not the Pistons
Performance Center – that’s our official name – but an interaction center.”

Arn Tellem, Pistons vice chairman who choreographed the intricate dance to pull off an operation of this magnitude, emphasized at every point of the process Gores’ vision to integrate the Pistons with their new surroundings. There’ll be a Plum Market and a Blink Fitness under the same roof – and at the other end of the building, the recently dedicated William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine, which won’t just serve the needs of Pistons players but the community’s, as well.

Neighbors can stroll up to the building and soak up the history of the Pistons, with plaques and sidewalk markers dedicated to the franchise’s all-time great players and historically significant moments.

“Isn’t this a great day in Detroit?” Duggan said on a dais that included Gores, Tellem, Dwane Casey and Henry Ford Health System president and CEO Wright Lassiter III. “It’s a special day for this city. You’re going to stay with us until we announce that 690 Amsterdam Avenue gets renamed One Championship Drive.”

About that: While no one expects the NBA’s shiniest, splashiest new training facility to put the Pistons over the top, Casey and front-office chief executive Ed Stefanski – both veterans of several other NBA organizations – understand the intrinsic value of a place to call home that sets a new standard.

“This is phenomenal,” Stefanski said. “I can’t believe there’s any better place in the whole world.” Does it help attract free agents? “It doesn’t hurt. No doubt that this will help us when we get into free agency. To talk to people, to bring them through this building, there’s a wow factor here, no question.”

“This is my second practice facility to open up,” Casey said, “and this is, by far, head and shoulders above it. We have everything. … This is second to none as far as giving us every amenity for guys to get better.”

Moving to Little Caesars Arena two years ago was the more visible change for the Pistons, but moving their corporate headquarters and the training center to the New Center area – two miles north of LCA – is the more substantive and symbolic move to achieve Gores’ vision of making the Pistons a team leader in the community-wide effort to reinvent Detroit.

“It’s about bringing the community together,” Gores said. “I’m excited. These kind of things, you have to hold yourself back a little bit, but it’s a success. It’s great. We still have a lot to do, but I’m just proud of how we’re engaged with the community. It’s a win for Detroit.”

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