Foster: Gores expects Tellem hire to impact city

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Look for Pistons owner Tom Gores and Platinum Equity to dip their toes further into the potentially lucrative Detroit real estate market and promote initiatives to help the poor.

The hiring of superagent Arn Tellem as vice chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment is both shocking and telling. This is not so much a basketball move as it is a city of Detroit move. Gores wants to move and move quickly and become the third wheel, along with Ilitch Holdings and Dan Gilbert, in making an impact downtown.

It is not about making a splash. It is about making an impact for a city that needs more heroes.

"We've got all the pieces — the Motown history, the sports history, the manufacturing, the great work ethic and the universities," Gores said in a phone conversation with The Detroit News on Friday. "If we can't all come together and leverage all those things together, it would be a shame."

Gores also wants to forge a relationship with the other power brokers that could result in a new way we view sports. Can you imagine a local television network that features the Lions, Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings with local programming and games?

That might be bad news for Fox Sports Detroit, which holds programming rights to the Red Wings, Tigers and Pistons.

But this is one example of inclusiveness rather than the division that has crippled this town.

There was a quote by Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert that stung. He told Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News the following about owning the Pistons: "It's hard to compete — not being in an urban corridor. You have to sell more than just the game. You have to sell the entire experience. And you can't get that in a field."

The field he talks about is Auburn Hills.

The Gores people talk about painting a big canvas in Detroit. The canvas is too large for Ilitch, Gores and Gilbert to paint entirely. And Ilitch and Gilbert seem to have Detroit and Midtown locked up.

However, there is a chance for the Pistons to make their mark in a splashy and important way in Detroit. The Pistons have an image problem in Detroit. The team plays 40 minutes away and all of the youth camps, playground revivals and meet-and-greets in the world cannot change that. Many still believe the Pistons abandoned the city after leaving Cobo Arena decades ago when Bill Davidson owned the team.

Gores came in and told his people to make inroads into the city.

Here is what he has done. He gave $250,000 to the Jalen Rose Academy to help the former PSL player and NBA star change young people's lives. He provided lighting for the Douglas MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle prior to the Detroit Grand Prix.

He also gave 2,100 bikes and helmets to children in Detroit, Flint, Bay City and Port Huron.

So he is making an impact. However, there is more Gores can do.

■ Eastern Market is being revived. However, there is plenty of empty space that can be connected with the Eastern Market. Gores could build his own village with a mix of affordable housing for families and upscale housing for younger business people moving to Detroit.

The new neighborhood could include playgrounds, basketball courts and shopping areas.

■ The school system is a mess in Detroit, undergoing bankruptcy protection. Gores already has partnered with the Jalen Rose Academy on the western edge of the city. He could include another charter school for families that are now reluctant to move to the city.

■The Pistons should consider moving back downtown. There has been talk but nothing concrete. Fans do not get a total experience in Auburn Hills. Yes, the new scoreboard is fantastic. The entertainment at The Palace is wonderful. But afterward there is no district to walk to and enjoy the rest of the evening.

■Partner with Dan Duggan of the Michigan Bucks, or the Detroit City Football Club, to bring soccer to Detroit. Gores has the clout and power to unite the two factions or decide which one he wants to throw his support behind. Detroit is on the verge of establishing a professional non-MLS team here, and it would be a shame if the opportunity were squandered.

My fear is Duggan will build a stadium and the DCFC will build one, and both will fail in four or five years.

■Another fear is that the Ilitch family, Gores' group and Gilbert will decide they can't work together.

There needs to be one vision to make Detroit a complete city. There needs to be a summit where big money and bright minds get together and emerge as partners rather than rivals.

This will be Tellem's biggest challenge when Gores puts him on the front lines in August.

"I can't tell you it didn't take some selling to get him here, but he is excited about the opportunity," Gores said Friday. "Arn wants to take all of his experiences and knowledge and really drive it into the community."

tfoster@detroitnews.com

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