New practice facility will give Pistons a state-of-the-art Detroit home
AUBURN HILLS – Ish Smith has been conditioned not to think too far into the future, befitting a player who has worn the uniforms of 10 franchises in his seven NBA seasons. Imagining what the new Pistons practice facility will be like in the 2018-19 season is a little beyond his horizon.
But as a guy who hasn’t called anywhere home for very long since leaving Wake Forest in 2010, Smith knows how important it is to make the practice facility a homey environment for players.
“It’s your safe haven,” he said. “You spend all summer there now and obviously all year there. Any time you’ve got a place you can be comfortable going to – cold tub, massages, all those different things – it’s huge.”
The Pistons announced their 100,000-square-foot facility in partnership with Henry Ford Health System last month and released artist’s sketches, but many of the details of what will go into the future home of the team – offices for basketball operations and the business side will move to the Detroit campus as well as the team’s practice headquarters – are still in development.
“We’re still in the design phase,” general manager Jeff Bower said. “We’re still adding and researching different components. Things will change, but not substantially.”
Bower and two of his top front-office aides, associate general manager Pat Garrity and chief of staff Andrew Loomis, have headed the effort to make sure the new facility will provide the best environment possible for current and future Pistons to develop their basketball skills.
“The philosophy behind the design is based on player improvement and player recovery and intervention,” Bower said. “We’re trying to design a building that will create advantages for our players in their everyday progress of being an NBA player. A lot of it centers on athletic recovery and performance.”
To aid the quest to ensure the new facility maximizes the commitment by Pistons owner Tom Gores, estimated to fall between $50 million to $75 million, in relocating not only the team’s home arena but its business headquarters to Detroit, they’ve visited several other team facilities – and not just in the NBA.
Loomis has studied recently built facilities of the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers, the latter being built in El Segundo by Rosetti, the Detroit-based firm whose first entry into sports facilities was a smashing one: The Palace. Rosetti has been retained by the Pistons as architect for their new home in Detroit’s New Center area.
But he’s also visited NFL facilties and was struck by some of the features of the Dallas Cowboys new practice facility in Frisco, Texas, called The Star. College facilities were scouted, too, with athletic departments – awash in cash from recent rounds of TV rights negotiations – investing in increasingly well-appointed training centers as part of the recruiting arms race escalation. Oregon, backed by Nike stakeholder Phil Knight’s money, and Utah were two places Loomis visited.
With Gores encouraging Stan Van Gundy’s staff to think big, Bower, Garrity and Loomis have been emboldened to create a state-of-the-art home base for the Pistons for the franchise’s next generation.
“We’ve been fortunate to have visited a number of buildings that have gone up recently and spent a lot of time talking with and researching facilities at universities and the NFL,” Bower said. “We’ve attempted to learn and explore some of the newest technologies and amenities that can benefit our players.”
One feature of the new practice facility will be two regulation-size NBA courts side by side. Their current practice facility on the grounds of The Palace has only one court with baskets at each end and an additional basket on either side of the half-court line extended.
“We’ve got four baskets when we shoot (in drill work),” Van Gundy said. “You’ve got to make sure all four baskets are working on the right side so you’re not bumping into each other. Now you’ve got a lot more room to do things. And we’ve also done a lot of after-practice playing on days we’re light. Eight of the lower-minute guys are playing full court while other guys have to wait if they want to shoot. Now they wouldn’t have to, so there’s actually a lot of benefit to it.”
“As you know, everybody wants to get their shots in, so when everybody’s on specific goals everybody’s fighting for the main court,” Smith said. “Philadelphia just built a new one that’s really nice and they’ve got two courts. Oklahoma City does. It’s huge.”
A huge project with huge implications for the next generation of a franchise whose leadership is determined to provide its players with the very best resources.