|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
DETROIT PISTONS MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 22, 2016
MARK BARNHILL: Look at this room. Something big is happening. Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you all for being here today.
Thanks, as well to our hosts, principle Lisa Phillips and the staff and student body here at Cass Technical High School. We are very grateful for your hospitality in this beautiful venue and the terrific view it offers of the arena right next door.
I'm very pleased to host today's event to introduce a talented group of leaders to my right to discuss today's historic announcement. I'm Mark Barnhill, a member of Tom Gores' ownership of the Detroit Pistons and one of his partners at Platinum Equity.
The executives to my right I think are recognizable to you all but let me go through them. They include Tom Gores, owner of the Detroit Pistons and founder and CEO of Platinum Equity; Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings and Olympia Entertainment; Mayor Mike Duggan of the City of Detroit, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Before asking them to speak, I suppose I should formally acknowledge what may be the worst-kept secret in town. The Detroit Pistons are moving back to the City of Detroit, and next season we'll begin playing at the new Little Ceasar's arena, bringing together all four professional sports teams in the heart of the city and the District Detroit development area.
In addition to moving into the new arena, the Pistons will build a state-of-the-art practice facility and corporate headquarters nearby as part of a far-reaching partnership with the Ilitch organization and the City.
Details of the complex agreements behind the move are available in the press packets, and members of the deal teams will be available to brief you after we are done here. And we'll open the floor to questions in a moment from this group.
In the meantime, I'd like to ask each of the principles on stage to offer some opening remarks and talk a little bit about why we're here today. Let me start with Tom Gores. Tom?
TOM GORES: Thank you, mark. Welcome, everybody, it's a very exciting day.
Chris, you've been such an honor to work with, and it is a groundbreaking day I think for the City of Detroit.
Mayor, thank you for your hard work.
Adam Silver, thank you for being here, with your schedule and so on, and Chris, I am honored to be right next to you.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. It's a time to be grateful I suppose, although we should do that every day. I was thinking this morning, how surreal it is that I'm up here, 35 years ago, working for my dad at a store in Flint, Michigan on Davidson Road. I was reading about a guy by the name of Mike Ilitch, and apparently, he was a mover, he was a shaker and he had plans to do a lot of things and I'm just proud to be here, about going forward.
I also read about -- is Kelser here, and magic? I also read about that. Mike Ilitch is a customer-centric person. There was an amazing article, years ago, about customer service.
So I want to take a minute. And Mr. Ilitch, I know you're at home watching. I want just to acknowledge your tremendous hard work to get us up here tonight: Your skills, your vision, your guts to stick with Detroit; you would be very, very proud of the leadership team you have. And as I sit here, I don't take all the work you've done for granted, and it doesn't happen without a lot of sweat and tears.
You'd be very proud of the organization you have. I've worked with Chris and the leadership very closely. They are thorough, they execute on their plan you and would be proud, Mr. Ilitch, and I'm very proud of the Ilitch family for dedicating themselves to Detroit. That's the minimum, I would say.
Mayor, I know we are not low maintenance people. Your tireless efforts to keep working with everybody, with folks like Chris and I, Dan Gilbert, and people who are making a difference, but I know it's tireless and you accommodate everybody, and I appreciate all the effort that you take.
Adam, your leadership, just in terms of the NBA, you've always supported me, but you really have supported the City of Detroit. It is such an icon in terms of basketball. Yet Adam is behind us the whole way, and just making the time to be here, I think that's been important. Your leadership has been incredible for the NBA.
So many contributors. I see the legends, Bob Lanier, who has harassed me over the last few years, asking, when are we going to get to Detroit. Mayor Bing, how about your effort, to keep this city together, and I'm sure you're proud to see this city comeback. We've got legends, Mahorn, I don't know if he's here, I see Blaha. There's so much -- Mahorn is a tough guy. Last time I saw him was in the elevator, where the heck were we, Toronto (laughter).
There are so many contributors to get to this place, and I know I don't do it alone and we can't do it alone and I'm very happy to be a part of this. My dear friends, the Davidsons, Ethan and Karen have supported me through this whole process. They cared greatly, incredibly, about the transfer of ownership. They cared about who's hands it could be in. They took their own personal interests aside and wanted to make sure the Detroit Pistons were good. I know Bill Davidson would be proud of you guys for caring so deeply.
We are going to leave the Palace. I think it's the right time. It's an exciting time. But I also want to acknowledge all the people who supported the Palace, and the fans, and the staff, the incredible memories we have at the Palace, we own those. Those don't go anywhere. We own those. They are now a part of our history. Ethan, Chris and I have talked about this; Ethan and I, but really Ethan, he has a better sense of the history. He's going to help curate some of the stuff we are going to keep in this new arena.
So to the Davidson family who put your heart and soul, really, in this. I know Ethan well enough to know that he's emotional right now, and you should be, because all of that effort over the years, you lived with it and we appreciate it a lot.
So here we are. We're making the move, and why did we do it.
No. 1, it is great for the Detroit Pistons. This is the right call for our fans, for our players, how we can impact the community, it is the right call. It is time for us to do it.
The arena, which Chris and his team, of course with Mr. Ilitch and so on, it is an incredible arena. The thought that's gone into this arena in the logistics, every single thought, every fan will believe it's incredible.
The development and the details of it, I've been so impressed with it, and I've seen many people operate in business, I've been in business for awhile; I'm not sure I've seen this level of thought into every single step somebody takes -- the fan experience -- forget the district. That's a whole other level.
The arena; the Ilitch partnership, when Chris and I met, it was hard to leave our home, the palace, but there was something bigger in this partnership and we are already working on things. That was another reason to say, look, this makes sense.
And then economically for the City of Detroit, in the State of Michigan, we are going to create thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue with this. And what's good for Detroit will be good for the state. As much as we are Detroit-centric, we have to be good for everybody. This will create tremendous opportunity for a lot of people.
I promised you that I would try to be impactful and I'm doing the best I can to be impactful. And ultimately, this is a community asset. That's really the last reason to do this. This is about the community. When you take a team, and Adam and I talked about this, you steward it. You're not the owner for the day. You steward it and you have to be very careful, and it's truly a community asset. And I think it will be tremendous for the community.
So going forward, guys, I'm so, so excited. I know it took us awhile to get here on the basketball front because that's important. We have a very good man in charge of the Pistons, Stan Van Gundy. He's a man of integrity. He's one of the hardest people I've seen. He's created culture. He's really helped reshape our organization, and we all know it starts on the floor.
So I have to acknowledge Stan coming in a few years ago and really, really doing that, between the floor, the front office and so on.
And now finally, Chris, I want to turn it over to you. And I do want to say that my goal, as a family, myself, my three kids, my wife, my brothers, my sisters, my mom, who is home and watching, she's 86; we would like to even come close to what you guys have done as a family, for the city, and I'm not sure we can match it but our goal will be to come close, and very, very excited about this. Thank you.
CHRIS ILITCH: Thank you, Tom. Thanks, Mark. And good afternoon, everybody. And thank you all for being here on what is truly an historic day.
What an exciting announcement for our entire community. Days like today positively shape our future. They extend the amazing comeback story underway in our city throughout our state and throughout the region, and they happen because of many dedicated, passionate people, a few of whom I'd like to recognize here today.
Tom Gores, is a visionary. And his decision to bring the Pistons to Detroit is a watershed moment. It will contribute tremendously toward the incredible, positive momentum underway in our city. It will make our city stronger. It will benefit residents, businesses, and visitors; not just in the city, but as Tom said, across the suburbs and our region and throughout the state, as Detroit increasingly becomes a dynamic place for all of us.
This is a bold move, and it will have a positive effect throughout our entire community. It will strengthen us in ways that we know already, but in some remarkable ways, that we can't even yet see. We're fortunate to have an entrepreneur and a native of our community like Tom take this bold step.
Tom Gores is a great businessman, and I admire his commitment to doing things the right way. He's so clearly committed to making a positive difference in our community. It's a commitment we share, and really, is a big part of what brought our two organizations together.
From his contributions to the refurbishment of Lipke Recreation Center, to a support of a new truck for Forgotten Harvest to his participation in the Mayor's impressive Grow Detroit's Young Talent Program; Tom and his team have invested millions of dollars and countless hours to make our community a better place.
So today, Detroit's not just getting a team that's committed to championships; it's getting a team that will be a committed champion for the city.
It's evident that Tom's team also shares this sincere commitment to our community and to doing business the right way. There have been so many important contributors to this process, but I would specifically like to thank Arn Tellem and Dan Krasner in. Without Arn and Dan, today would not have been possible. So thank you to you both, as well as your entire teams that have been involved.
And one of the biggest expressions of gratitude for today, though, goes to our mayor, Mike Duggan. From the day he took office, actually before he took office, we were talking about this just before we came out, pretty amazing that he was in on Ford Field and Comerica Park, and now Little Ceasar's arena, and of course, the Detroit Pistons.
But Mayor Duggan has made a positive impact on Detroit and the people. His focus on the most important issues throughout our community continue to make Detroit a better place, from improving emergency response times to enhancing the public transportation to his commitment to insuring affordable housing and investment across the city, his leadership has been nothing short of spectacular.
He, of course, has not stopped there. The Mayor made a huge contribution to the agreement being announced today. He's been active. He's been a central participant in this move, and I thank him for his dedication, his passion, and his vision. There would be no announcement to make today were it not for the efforts of Mayor Duggan, so thank you, mayor.
And I'm equally impressed and appreciative of leadership of city council, members of the DDA board and the staff all across city government; that spirit of collaboration extends well beyond today's announcement, of course. We have done so much together and we have so much yet to do. But my team and I, we thank you all, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to move our community forward.
And speaking of my team, I'd like to specifically thank three of my colleagues for their incredible work on this project: Tom Wilson, Stan Berenbaum and Ryan Kane. Each has been instrumental in making today's announcement possible. This day would not have come if it were not for these dedicated pros.
Tom Wilson has experience and knowledge of sports and entertainment unmatched in our marketplace, perhaps in the country. He knows both of our organizations inside and out. Tom helped build a strong bridge between us, and his leadership will be key as we move forward with this partnership.
So thank you, Tom, for your outstanding work, as we would not be here today without you.
Stan Berenbaum, our general counsel, also deserves the utmost credit for making this deal happen. His remarkable readership, work ethic, commitment, creativity, endless energy and his attention to detail were a big difference for us, and I thank and congratulate you, Stan, on an incredible job.
Finally, Ryan Kane in our finance area worked very hard, meticulously analyzed and projected dozens of different options for this agreement, ensuring it was a win for everyone involved. Thank you and congratulations, Ryan. We could not have done it without you.
And there are also so many other people who have played a role. My colleagues working so hard on both Little Ceasar's arena and the District Detroit, some of the very best people in the world in the areas of design and architecture, construction, operations, sales, marketing, human resources, finance, legal, government relations, development, communications, too many to name individually. But please know I thank you all for everything you've done and continue to do to make today's announcement possible. You should all be very proud of your work.
And speaking of Little Ceasar's arena, construction is going well and we're on schedule to deliver an absolutely stunning facility to the people of our community next September. Little Ceasar's arena, of course, is one of the centerpieces in the District Detroit, and the project so far all across the district is progressing beyond our expectations.
Today nine active construction sites are already dotting our landscape, and as it transforms our landscape, this Michigan-made, Detroit-built project is also positively transforming lives in our community, and there are so many important additional development announcements yet to come.
As I reflect on today and I feel the excitement and energy in our community, I can't help but think of two other entrepreneurs who made a bold move to Detroit nearly three decades ago in 1987: My parents, Mike and Marian Ilitch. They began restoring the FOX Theatre and the FOX office building's home for Little Ceasar's pizza, and from that one decision, so much good has happened.
Over the past three decades, my parents have continually invested in Detroit and its people. Working to make our city a better place, and so many others have joined them with daring ideas, big projects and small, and all of these efforts have made today possible.
This is exactly what we envisioned when we embarked on the District Detroit project. So on behalf of our organization and our entire community, I thank and congratulate Mike and Marian Ilitch.
With today's announcement, our great city will stand alone. We will be the only city in the country with all four major professional sports teams together in our city core. An amazing and unmatched density of venues all in easy walking distance of one another.
This community is getting the world-class sports and entertainment it deserves, a perfect addition to a city in the midst of an incredible and historic transformation that is propelling everyone forward.
Detroit is an amazing sports town, one of the world's most passionate, most successful, and now, we're taking it to even greater heights by welcoming the Detroit Pistons to our city.
Today's announcement is the next chapter in a remarkable comeback story. Today we're taking another step in building Detroit stronger, a strong region and a strong Michigan. And across our community, I see so much good happening, so much that none of us could have predicted or perhaps even dared to hope for. People are working incredibly hard on the turnaround that is so clearly underway.
I feel the excitement, energy, enthusiasm. I see us building a very bright future for our community together, and I'm very excited for what the future holds for all of us and I'm glad you're all here to celebrate it. Thank you.
MARK BARNHILL: Mayor, big day for the city in a lot of ways. Look forward to kind of your observations on the implications of this and what it means.
MAYOR MIKE DUGGAN: I can't believe we're here. Every long time Detroiter knows what I mean. I want to start by saying, thank you to Tom Gores for making this a very happy Thanksgiving for the City of Detroit.
Commissioner Silver, welcome back to town. Principle Phillips and the Cass Tech family, thank you for hosting us.
And to my friend, Chris Ilitch, he's right when he talked about this started before I took office. Right after I got elected, Chris called and showed me a whole list of projects he was working on to transform the city and after he went through all this long list, he said, "I want one thing." He said, "I want the Pistons."
And Chris said to me that day, "Mike, I promise you, if there is anything in my power I can do to get the Pistons to come down to our arena, I'll do it." And Chris kept his word, and thank you, so much, for your leadership.
You know, watching our city decline over the years has been difficult, but emotionally, the most painful experiences were when our sports franchises either left town or tried to leave town. I was at the last Lion's game played at the old Tiger Stadium in 1974 with my father, and I was heartbroken. I was a teenager and I was heartbroken.
And then the next year we rode up on the bus at the first game of the Silverdome, and to this day, I can remember how angry I felt. And I kept saying, "How can they call them the Detroit Lions when they play in Pontiac?" It just didn't seem right.
A lot of this, those of us who were here, the former owner of the Red Wings, Bruce Norris, announced in 1977, he was taking the Red Wings out of Detroit and going to play in a community called Oakland Township, which we now know -- Pontiac Township, which we now know as Auburn Hills. And it was only the intervention of Mayor Young and Joe Louis Arena that kept the Red Wings from leaving.
Of course the Pistons left a couple years later, and I was here in 1991 when Tom Monaghan tried to take the Detroit Tigers to Dearborn. It seems like most of my adult life, in one of the greatest sports towns in America, it just seemed like their sports teams didn't believe in the future of our city.
That's why one of my most special days was 20 years ago when I was up here with Mike Ilitch and Bill Ford when I was co-chairing the stadium authority when we brought the Lions back to town. And I am just so proud to be here with you, Tom. And now I'm feeling old because the next generation is sitting here with me, although I know Mom and Dad are watching.
But I tell you what it means. When the Pistons tip off here in October, for the first time in 43 years, all four Detroit sports teams will be playing in the City of Detroit.
And as Chris mentioned, this is the only city now with all four teams in the downtown area. We didn't build stadiums surrounded by acres of asphalt and high fences. We built these stadiums woven into the urban fabric; you can walk within ten minutes to all of them.
So you can go around the country, and there are cities where all four teams are somewhere in the border of their city. In Denver, they got basketball and hockey and baseball downtown, and the Broncos play a mile outside. But who would believe, that it's only the City of Detroit, now becoming one of the great entertainment cities in America, that has all four professional teams in their downtown area. We're making significant progress.
It's been a complicated deal, and we've been working on it for a long time. And I want to thank my team, because this was very, very hard to do. But our economic development director, Tom Lewand; his deputy, Jed Howbert; our deputy chief of staff, Dave Massaron; and from DDA, Moddie Turay and Becky Navin who have worked long and hard, please stand up. Thank you all for what you have done.
And I also want to say a special thank you to my friend Ethan Davidson, who is here today. Because the Pistons left Detroit at a time when the city's future looked uncertain, but for the last few years, one of the single biggest cheerleaders for the City of Detroit and nonstop supporter and a guy who is beaming from ear to ear, everybody please say a special thank you to Ethan Davis. And Ethan, stand up.
This isn't a final deal. It's preliminary. We have a long way to go. We had a meeting earlier today to brief the DDA board, which is the owner of the arena. But we will be coming back in the first quarter next year with final agreements to be approved by the DDA, by the Michigan Strategic Fund and by the Detroit City Council.
So what we have today is a concept we wanted to share with the community, and it's going to take a lot of hard work to make it a reality. But at this point, I do want to acknowledge my partners in this process and ones that will be passing the ultimate decision on this.
I ask them to stand up: Councilman Scott Benson, Council member Janee Ayers, and Council member Mary Sheffield.
Any other Council member sneak in that I didn't see? All right. Thank you very much for being here.
This was a really difficult deal for two reasons, and it should make you appreciate Tom Gores. It's why I always was skeptical it was going to get done.
First, the Pistons owned the palace. They had it to themselves. They had control of it and they had all the revenues and they had it forever. Think about the decision that they had to make to come down to another facility they had to share with another team. How much belief does that say in the City of Detroit for a franchise to do that? I don't think that's ever happened.
And then there was a second complicating factor, which is: The construction of the arena is more than half done, and it was being built as a hockey arena, which meant to come down, a huge amount of work would have to be done to turn this from an NHL arena to an NBA/NHL arena. That may not sound like a lot but think about it.
A huge part of the NBA franchises are the floor seats, something you don't have in hockey and you have to accommodate the people that sit in those floor seats with particular amenities. You needed new dressing rooms and training facilities for not only the Pistons, but the visiting teams. You had to redesign the entire interior from a Red Wings facility to a Red Wings/Piston facility.
Now, if you start out designing an arena for both basketball and hockey, it's been done a number of times. But when your stadium is already half-done, simple things like, building locker rooms require the moving of elevators. And so it was going to be very expensive.
And so when I looked at this, and said, Tom Gores, is going to have to make a decision to leave a facility he owns and bare the expense of coming to a place where a lot of changes were going to be made late, I kept saying, is he really that committed to Detroit. And I can't tell you how deeply Detroiters appreciate your faith in us, so Tom, thank you, so much for coming back.
So let me take you briefly through the terms of the deal and the terms, the commitment the public is making. When we sat down with these folks -- and I have one last person I want to acknowledge because we did it with him. From the moment he arrived in town, the nonstop advocate for the deal who I spent many, many hours with, the person who really made this possible, I've got to ask him to stand up, Arn Tellem.
So when Arn came in and said, "What would it take," I said: Are three principles that we have to honor in the City of Detroit. The first is, we cannot spend general fund money on the arena. We just can't take money that could be used for police or fire or servicers for Detroiters and spend it on a hockey or basketball arena. So we can't do that.
Second, the development fund that we do have, we are going to cap our side and the teams are going to have to be on the hook for all the overruns, because the taxpayers can't do that.
And third, we are going to need a real economic community benefit package. And Arn said, "I think we can live with those principles."
Now it took more time than I thought it was before we got there. Those of you in the media have packets and memorandums of understanding. One relates to Olympia, which basically just consented to this, and the other is the main agreement with the Pistons.
But here is basically what it says: In 2017, the Detroit Pistons start playing their games in the City of Detroit. In 2018, they move their practice facility and their headquarters to the city. Our contribution as the public to that move is $34.5 million of development dollars. These are funds that come out of the DDA. By law, they may only be used for infrastructure and economic development purposes downtown.
So when somebody says, why are you doing this instead of something else, we could have used it on a hotel or office building. These funds have to be spent on economic development purposes in this region and we couldn't think of anything more important than bringing the Pistons back home.
The DDA sold $250 million of public bonds to pay for this arena. It was a time Detroit was in bankruptcy. We are in a little better place now. We are going to go out and refinance those bonds and we are going to cover the cost, half of the 34 million is going to be from the lower interest rates because of the better situation we are in today.
And we are going to extend the payment date, which is now through 2045, we are going to extend it three years to 2048. That's the total public commitment that we are making and it will allow us to do the modifications to the arena to make it a joint NBA/NHL facility. And there are very few times in this country that a professional sports team came to a city for a $34 million contribution. So we feel very pleased about the arrangements.
The Pistons and the Red Wings will continue to be on the hook for any cost overruns, and we have listed the community benefit agreements. But basically, the Pistons have agreed that they want to make sure there's opportunity for children across the city.
And when I told Arn that we had 60 basketball courts broken up, missing rims, in disrepair in 40 parks across the city and it would be about $2.5 million to repair every basketball court in every park, the Pistons agreed that they would put in $2.5 million over the next six years to repair every basketball court in every park in the City of Detroit.
The Pistons from their standpoint are making us sign an agreement that the City of Detroit is going to keep those courts up after it's done, which I thought was very wise on their part. And so it's going to be a partnership and they would do the things you would expect: 51 percent of the jobs will be Detroit workers, which the Ilitch organization has done a great job on; 30 percent of the work on building the facility out will be done by local contractors.
They made continuing commitments to our summer jobs programs and mentorships and a whole range of things, many of which, to be quite candid, they are already doing.
The only uncertainty is they were not ready to pick the site of the practice facility yet, which will be about a $15 million practice facility. There are two options in the agreement: If they build it next door to the arena, it will become part of the DDA project, and the existing District Detroit Neighborhood Council will continue to advise on it.
If they choose to build it outside of here, Councilman Scott Benson, who is here, is the author of Proposal B, the Community Benefits Plan. They have agreed that even though it won't meet the $75 million threshold of Proposal B, the Pistons were so committed to embracing the direction of the City of Detroit that they have agreed that if it comes out of the central district, they will follow the Proposal B process community engagement in signing it.
So thank you, Scott, for your leadership on that.
So we've got a lot of work to do. Nothing is ever done till it's done, and so we have got a lot of work to do between now and the first quarter of next year. But when you see the insert of commitment of Tom Gores as and Chris Ilitch, I have no doubt that next October we are going to be seeing our first hockey game and first basketball game right here in Little Ceasar's arena. Happy Thanksgiving.
MARK BARNHILL: Thank you, mayor Duggan. Now let me turn to Adam Silver.
You know, this is a business deal and we have a lot to talk about today as we break up into the briefings after the conference here about the business deal itself. But at the end of the day, it's about basketball for us and the ability to bring our fans into a world-class arena and put a world-class product in front of them.
Just as the Mayor noted, the deal is subject to approvals, final approvals here internally and there's an NBA approval process, as well. We are happy to have Adam here to talk about this and what it means for the league and reflect a little bit on this transitional period, our ownership of the team coincided just about with your commissionership, and your sense of this evolution and how this ownership has played out.
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Thank you, Mark, and thank you all for having me here today and appreciate everyone coming out.
Yes, the deal of course is subject to NBA approval, but I had not heard the word "preliminary" until the Mayor made his presentation. But I assume all this is coming together.
TOM GORES: It will.
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Thank you for having me here. I know it will.
And Ethan, wonderful to see you here. I was so found of your father, and of course got to work with him for many years, as well.
And Mayor Duggan, your leadership has been just fantastic, and it's been great to get to know you.
Tom, since the day you acquired the franchise, you talked about revitalizing the team, and you talked about doing something special for Detroit. And you know, it's just remarkable.
Of course Dan Gilbert is not here today but your partner who happens to -- in his spare time, run the Cleveland Cavaliers, but I know he's been an important part of the revitalization of Detroit, as well. And Chris, I think given that your family is part of NHL royalty; the fact that you took what was going to be primarily a hockey arena and convert it into a hockey and basketball arena means a lot to all of us.
So thank you for your vision, and of course, I know from dealing with many teams in terms of arena construction, all the hard work was done when this negotiation began in terms of shovel in the ground and the plans and to the city, so thank you for all that.
I'd also say, having been with the league for a long time and worked on many of these projects, it's almost beyond amazing and a tribute to all those involved that a deal of this magnitude could come together so quickly. I know Arn, who has been mentioned many times, and his wife, Nancy, is here as well, when we were here last January with the Mayor and Tom and Arn, and we dedicated a Boys and Girls Club that you sponsored in Detroit. And I remember then we went to the Palace afterwards and we had a meeting, and you guys at that point were saying, there was a possibility, possibility, you thought, that maybe you could make this happen.
I think from my standpoint, never in my wildest imagination, did I think you were talking about making it happen this quickly. And the fact that what was just merely a possibility could become a reality, is in no doubt record time -- and I know, Chris, you've through so many of these transactions and from the NBA standpoint, they never happen this quickly.
So to Arn and Tom and all the people involved, the Ilitches, it's really quite incredible that this could happen. Even when I was told how far along you were, I think because you kept us in the dark for awhile, as well, to keep these negotiations secret, it's quite remarkable that beginning next season you're going to be playing in this beautiful new arena. So congratulations to you guys.
Also I would say, to give it some perspective, Mark, as you've said. What I've seen over my tenure, roughly 25 years with the league office, obviously only a short time being commissioner, but we have seen these trends of our teams moving really from suburban areas outside of urban areas back into downtown areas, and we have seen this trend out the country. And Little Ceasar's arena is just another fantastic example of that trend, and what we are going to see now is, again, a truly state-of-the-art arena that will be without any question one of the best places in the world to watch a basketball game. And to Tom's point and to Chris's and his colleagues hard work, every detail has been focused on, so it's really quite fantastic to see.
I also know Tom, even from when you first began talking about acquiring the franchise, you talked about community engagement, and that was at the heart of your vision, and has always been part of what the Davidson family has stood for and the Pistons franchise.
I know that making this move to the city will make your influence on Detroit that much more impactful. I should mention, too, you're a modest guy, it's quite remarkable what you've done in Flint, Michigan through all the crisis there, so thank you for all you've done there, not just to be impactful on the City of Detroit, but the communities around it.
Let me just conclude by from a league standpoint by saying to all those Pistons fans out there, ^ the team is in great hands, it really is, and I know Ethan feels that way. I know your family does. And now with Arn running the sort of, in essence, the business side of the team; and complemented by, as you said, Stan Van Gundy, who is not only one of the best coaches and leaders in this league on the floor, but is someone who cares deeply about the community and his players.
So on behalf of the NBA, I'm proud of all that the Pistons are contributing to the economic revitalization of the city. I want to thank all of you here today.
Lastly, I feel it's important to thank Oakland county for their tremendous support of this team over the last four decades, and of course the three championships that went along with it.
So Pistons fans, it's an exciting time to be a basketball fan and everyone here, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thank you very much.
MARK BARNHILL: Thank you, Adam. That concludes the prepared remarks portion of the day. I'd like to open up the floor to some questions now, though, from the press who is assembled here.
To kick things off, I'll use a little bit of moderator's prerogative to choose the first question. I don't know if I see him but I'm looking for Gregory Kelser. Greg, you went to school not too far from here at Henry Ford High School over on the west side and went to Michigan State where you won a National Championship, but probably more importantly you were a two-time Academic All-American. You were drafted by the Pistons, played during the Silverdome era, and when your playing career ended, you, you became a fixture on the sideline of the Pistons broadcast team.
So I think you have a unique perspective over the long arc of the history of this franchise. I would ask two things. First, your observation relative to how that arc has evolved over the course of our ownership and Tom's leadership of the team, and then see if you can turn it back to a question for the panel here in terms of the implications.
GREG KELSER: Well, first of all, I'd like to say that I'm very proud to be here. It's all a pleasure and an honor being in the presence of Piston legends such as Mr. Dave Bing, and Mr. Bob Lanier, who I grew up watching and wanting to be like here in the City of Detroit while I was a member of the public school, Detroit, Henry Ford.
I was very fortunate to be drafted by the Pistons and had the opportunity to play in my hometown. Mr. Mayor, you were at the last Lions game; I was at the last Pistons game at Cobo Hall, along with Earl Cureton right here, and we watched David Thompson put up 73 (laughter) closed the place.
I have to say that for me personally, this is a very proud moment to have the team coming back to Detroit. I can certainly pressure the reasons for leaving Detroit, the thoughts that were in place at that time. I mean, who could fault the Davidsons for making that decision.
But there was a lot of success that followed that, and a model arena out in Auburn Hills, one that I look at today, I looked at last night, in fact, when I got word that this move was imminent, and what a place. What a place. What an establishment, one that has stood the test of time and can hold its own against anything right now that they are building around the league.
But I agree with Mr. Gores, it is time. The time has come. Much appreciation and thanks to the Davidsons for the stewardship of the organization through 38 years and three championships and a whole lot of other close calls during those years. Proud ownership, one that became a model franchise and one that many tried to emulate.
This is a proud day and I'm thrilled to be a part of it and I'm thrilled to see it come to fruition, and I think that like the Red Wings and the success that they have had over the great many years, I mean, decade, almost a century of history, proud history, I look forward to the Pistons now getting on a path to that same thing.
The question that I would have is for Mr. Gores, because first of all, he's been very, very kind to my family and has befriended us since day one, and I know you've spoken both privately and publically about the Detroit Pistons being a community asset and how more than maybe just winning basketball games, as the owner of the Detroit Pistons, you wanted to be a staple in the community and be a symbol for change. I know for a fact that's happening. As the Commissioner mentioned in Flint, in the areas around here, we have watched you make a difference here in a very short period of time and we have seen the lives that have been impacted.
My question to you, though, as you sit there as a humble man as Commissioner Silver just said, and you talked about some of the things that you read and some of the times you spent at your father's store in Flint some 30-some years ago, the question I have for you is: I would like you to just speak for a moment more about what this day means to you and how proud you are. Because for nearly two generations of Piston fans, they only know the Detroit Pistons out in Auburn Hills. They have no knowledge or recollection of them ever being in the City of Detroit.
And I know that when you took over, many people were wondering how many championships you might win. Championships are very, very difficult to come by in the NBA, and you can be a great franchise and never win one but perhaps this day, in a lot of peoples' minds, are bigger than any championship that you could ever win.
So I congratulate you on that, but I would like to you just tell us a little bit more about how prideful this day is for you, sir.
TOM GORES: Thank you, Gregory, for those nice words.
Well, first, I'm humbled, just to be up here. I could almost never take that feeling away. I'm just humbled to have the opportunity to be here. Adam and I and David Stern talked about this, and as much as we love and we want to win and I promise you, that's what we are going to try to do every single day and Stan will try to do that is we want to impact the community.
What I learned about sports teams coming in is, one, I don't want to win at all costs. If we won and we were not good to this community, we are not winners. It's a game. It's one year. And I have to even ask myself, what does that mean, one championship. And imagine we did, but we didn't build the right culture, and we did not build the right people, and we didn't have a purpose to be impactful. Impactful is about affecting people, impacting them, making their lives better. I had the opportunity to help in Flint to be a catalyst there. I grew up there.
Honestly, it's a bit overwhelming to be sitting here, kid from Flint, speaking to such important people that have done so much more than me. My job is ahead of me, and that's what I try to -- as much as I acknowledge we're here and we're going to take the Pistons forward; my job is ahead of me to keep impacting the city.
And I am very proud and this was a very, very difficult move to make the move. But I'm very proud and the whole goal and the No. 1 goal was to treat this like A community asset. But it's hard for me to take any credit, because there are so many more people that have done so much. Just seeing Mayor Bing there, and I know what you've done, Mayor, with entrepreneurs and young men. I was in a meeting with you, and the fact that you take the time to do that, is such a big impact in a sports team, and we've just got to take that seriously.
I think that's the biggest thing, and make no mistake, we want to win. I know you guys want to, too. I've heard that. So I'm very proud, very proud to be here.
Q. What happens to the Palace?
TOM GORES: Well, Arn and I have been discussing this. We have a lot of different plans and possibilities. We've even discussed it, Chris and I, together, and we don't have any definitive plans. It will be taken care of. It will be respected.
There's some development opportunities. We really haven't sorted that out because we really just got to this deal. I know the mayor said preliminary, but we are going to get this done.
So we don't really have any specific plans. Arn, I don't know if you want to add anything to that? Arn, he likes negotiating in the background.
MARK BARNHILL: Let me adjunct to that. The long-term plans are still unresolved, but how do you see celebrating the history of the Palace through the rest of the season?
TOM GORES: We are going to relish in our success there. And when I say "our," that was really before me. And I think we'll probably do some very, very special things on behalf of the Pistons the Davidsons. We'd like to give back to kids during the course of the year and really take it in. I think that's the plan this year.
I'm a big believer that when it's your home, you take care of it. Even if you're moving, you still take care of it and you respect it. And that's what we're going to do with the Palace.
Q. Had you put a lot of thought into sort of projections in terms of fans continuing to go out to Auburn Hills, as opposed to people being more accepting of coming into the city, or is that a business -- was there a business decision besides just promoting Detroit?
TOM GORES: We thought about that, and there's almost no way to analyze it. But the overwhelming, clear data and impact was going to be this big picture that Chris and I plan on doing, the impact on the city.
We looked at it. But honestly, the big picture really made our decision. How many fans do you get and how many come from Auburn Hills versus Detroit and who will travel and who will not, we looked at it.
But the numbers and the impact are so big in moving to the city, with all the sports teams here, everything that the Ilitches have going, what Dan has going, it's overwhelmingly the right thing.
And we knew we could move here keeping our brand and making it still our home, and Chris committed to me, and I believe him obviously. So we looked at it, but the truth is, in the big picture, it's very, very small.
Q. Obviously there's a lot of employees at the Palace right now and a lot of them commute from Flint. What would your message be to them at this point? I know you said there's not anything set in stone for the future, but what is your message?
TOM GORES: First the message is we appreciate you but we are going to make sure that we also talk to them. I think as an organization, whether it's the Detroit Pistons, the Palace or Platinum Equity, we respect people's hard work. So we'll make sure that we take care of everybody.
There is a transition going on. There's no way to get away from that, and we are going to work through it. I think Chris and I both have this same value of taking care of people and respecting them and acknowledging their hard work.
I think the best thing we can give them as fast as we can is some certainty, but they will always be respected for their hard work. There will be a transition and we're going to talk to them about that.
Q. What's a deadline for the city to get all this approved in order for the Pistons to move down here by the start of the 2017 season?
MAYOR MIKE DUGGAN: We are not going to have a problem with it, so we have final agreements we have to get between ourselves. We have got to price bond issues. We've got to size bond issues. And the teams are all working together on that.
I anticipate first couple of months of 2017, this will be just fine. I'm not seeing anything in here that should hold us up.
Q. Could you describe the design of what you envision for the headquarters, as well as the practice facility? And then would there be an opportunity to have practices in some of the high school gyms in Detroit?
TOM GORES: Could you say that again?
Q. Sure. Could you describe the design of the headquarters and the practice facility? Have you hired an architect yet for that? I know you don't have the exact location. And secondly, would there be an opportunity for the Pistons to host practices periodically in the high school gyms of Detroit?
TOM GORES: I think it's a good idea on the high school gyms. I think the practice facility, we're still working on. It is a work, a work-in-progress, and I think Arn, we're also talking about headquarters and the different possibilities.
I think Chris and I have such a nice working relationship and we know those are moving parts. I don't know, Chris, if you want to say anything on this, but we know those are moving parts. One of the things Chris and I talked about is leveraging our assets with the community, and so of course we'll do that with high school and so on.
But we haven't really nailed a lot of that stuff down. I think we are down to two potential for the practice facility. And then the arena stuff, we have worked through in terms of how the basketball team operates and so on in terms of design.
I don't know, Chris, if you want to add anything to that.
CHRIS ILITCH: The only thing would I add is from what I've seen thus far from the Pistons team, they are looking to build something that will be very dynamic, very additive to our community and add value. I think it will be exciting. And they are looking to build something that will engage the community, and I think that's very smart and it's very exciting.
Q. Mayor Duggan mentioned at the start that he almost couldn't believe that you wanted to do it, because from a business standpoint, it didn't seem to make sense leaving the Palace. What in your mind made it the right time to do now, and was it almost like, with where Detroit is going, you had to get in before you were left behind in some ways? I know you're in, but get in fully before it was too late.
TOM GORES: No. No, I wouldn't say that. I would say I saw the big picture and I think the Ilitch organization, and having spent time with Chris, and seeing how he functions and operates and is thorough, I thought this would be a great partnership.
And I would tell you, that if I didn't feel it; that we have a home and we would stay there. But there's a bigger picture here that the math says we are going to do a lot more than just an arena and so on. I'm not saying it wasn't difficult to move. You know, you move from your home and you own it and we got invited by the I will issues.
I think without the professionalism, the openness of the Ilitches and the big picture, I don't think the deal gets done.
Q. As a Canadian, I know you've created a buss in Detroit with this move, but also a buzz in Windsor with basketball fans who now can see it's going to be a lot easier to go to a Pistons game than packing a lunch and gassing up the car. I know it's not your driving force, but is that one of the fringe benefits for the team moving?
TOM GORES: That you can drive easily?
Q. That Canadians have easier access to go to Pistons game.
TOM GORES: We do love Canadians, though. We have a couple here.
CHRIS ILITCH: And I can tell you the Red Wings really love Canadians.
I would actually jump in and mention, there's no doubt about it, ^ this location provides greater accessibility to the entire region. From that perspective, our organization, and I think Tom and his organization agree; there's great potential to introduce the Pistons to a lot of folks that maybe geographically were challenged to get to the Palace in a more convenient basis. So that's exciting, and there's opportunity there.
Q. What does a move to Detroit do for Detroit's chances of landing an All-Star Game?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Funny you should ask. (Laughter) the mayor mentioned it, Chris mentioned it and Tom mentioned it. I think it greatly enhances their chance to get an All-Star Game.
My goal is that we should come to every city that wants us, and especially when I think we've said many times at our Board of Governors meetings, that when new buildings come on line, they deserve to get All-Star games, so there's a process for bidding, and I'm sure Tom and Arn and Stan and others will focus on it with me, but I look forward to coming back here for an All-Star Game.
MARK BARNHILL: Thank you all, the leaders for making this happen. Thank you all for being here today.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports