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Fans celebrate Pistons' return to Detroit after 38 years

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit – Little Caesars Arena got another opportunity Wednesday for a grand opening.

While fans gathered outside hours before the Pistons’ debut at the new downtown arena, workers inside were putting the finishing touches on the NBA season opener, a couple weeks after the Red Wings made their NHL debut.

George Drain plays corn hole with his grandson, DaLeone Amos, 11, both of Saginaw, on the plaza  outside Little Caesars Arena before the game Wednesday.

About 200 fans came early to take in the festivities. The party kicked off ‪at 3 p.m. in the arena plaza with giveaways, music and performances.

Kimani Kyles and his wife Christy, daughters Mackenzie, 11, and Kalia, 7. Kimani Kyles said he was happy to see the Pistons back downtown. 

“This is much better than driving to The Palace, and it’ll get people back downtown,” Kyles said. “We really enjoy being here, who doesn’t? Really excited to get inside and see this new stadium.”

Fans shot hoops, took photos and played cornholes. Children got their faces painted and snagged photos with Piston’s Mascot Hooper.

Pistons Drumline and the Motor City Minis also were expected to perform outdoors for fans.

 

Some players, including Boban Marjanović, Henry Ellenson and Jon Leuer, walked the blue carpet into the arena for practice, drawing high fives and cheers from fans. Some players stopped and signed autographs. 

Inside, blue commemorative T-shirts with “Detroit Basketball: 1957-2017” and the Pistons logo covered each of the 21,000 seats in the arena, covering at least one of the biggest criticisms of Little Caesars Arena, the bright red seats. Each seat also had a special LED bracelet that will light up during specified times during the game.

In recent weeks, many Pistons fans wondered whether there would be more Pistons-themed memorabilia instead of Red Wings items. A large Isiah Thomas mural hung near one of the entrances and plenty of pop-up kiosks with Pistons team gear were around the concourse.

Detroit Pistons Tobias Harris puts up a shot while warming up before the home opener against the Charlotte Hornets. NBA Detroit Pistons, home opener, vs. Charlotte Hornets at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan on October 18, 2017.

As fans gathered inside the arena and out, former Pistons great Grant Hill toured the concourse with Pistons staff members, getting an up-close look at the new facility.

Wednesday celebrated the Pistons return to Detroit for the first time since 1979, when they played at Cobo Arena.

Charmaine Huntley, 45, waited on the carpet to meet her favorite team. She called herself a super fan. 

“My friend bought my ticket and this is a very special game for me because I lived in Charolette for a little,” said Huntley, of Berkeley. 

srahal@detroitnews.com