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Gores: If Pistons move, it’s going to be soon

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — The Pistons are “getting close” on a deal to return to downtown Detroit, owner Tom Gores said Friday.

If Gores’ Platinum Equity LLC and the Red Wings owners can agree on some final details, the Pistons could join the Wings in Little Caesars Arena as soon as next season.

Before the Pistons’ home opener Friday — potentially the last one at The Palace, where the team has played since 1988 — Gores updated the status of the negotiations with the Ilitch family, fueling speculation that a finalized deal could be on its way.

“If we’re going to do it, it’s going to be soon,” Gores said. “I’ve always been relatively transparent with you guys. We’re getting close. At the same time, I always want to appreciate The Palace and this great arena.”

Gores declined further comment about where the talks stand.

“I don’t really want to get into the deal and want to respect the Ilitch family,” he said. “We’re very close in crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s.”

Representatives for the Red Wings didn’t comment on Gores’ statement Friday night.

A move downtown would center all four of Detroit’s professional sports teams in the city proper.

“We’re serious about making this move and we should take it in and enjoy The Palace. It really has been a historic arena,” Gores said.

The big question remains about what would happen to The Palace if the deal is completed and the Pistons move. The arena, just 28 years old, still is in good shape, but there wouldn’t be enough concerts and other events to justify maintaining the venue in its current state, according to a source. Oakland County officials revealed this week that they turned down an offer to buy The Palace from Platinum Equity for a reported $370 million.

Sources have indicated that if The Palace can’t be sold, Platinum Equity could continue to maintain it, consider redevelopment or other options.

Sources have said that the remaining issues are significant and the deal still could collapse, but Gores seemed confident that they could bridge the final issues and come to an agreement.

“We’ve had very good conversations with the Ilitches,” he said.

Part of the remaining discussions include building a separate practice facility for the Pistons downtown, but a location hasn’t been identified. Potential sites include land the Ilitch family already owns in the downtown area, including a three-block swath of property just across from the MotorCity Casino, owned by Marian Ilitch.

Although the notion is to move the Pistons back downtown, Gores said they’re not considering building their own arena, which would involve significantly more work and cost, which could include some public funding.

As the home season begins at The Palace, Gores said there is no particular deadline to complete the negotiations with the Ilitch family.

“It’s great if we can get back downtown — that’s something that everybody would like, but I wouldn’t say that’s my vision,” he said. “The vision is to come in, compete and make you guys proud.”

Louis Aguilar of The Detroit News contributed to this report.