Pistons provide glimpse of new practice facility in Detroit

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
This will be the players' locker room inside the new Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center.

Detroit — It’s supposed to feel like home.

From the parking spots and the player lounge to the personal chef and deluxe amenities, the Pistons’ new practice facility is looking to make the players feel like they’re at their new home. Located in Midtown, the Henry Ford Pistons Performance Center will be 185,000 square feet and will be the largest practice facility and team headquarters in the NBA.

When it opens in October, it will house all of the Pistons’ front office and operations staff, which had remained in Auburn Hills after the team played its games downtown at Little Caesars Arena.

The facility also will be home to a 5,000-square-foot Plum Market and a 15,000-square-foot Blink Fitness health club — both open to the public — to offer a unique blend as a  community hub and team headquarters. 

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“This is really our home, to make (the players) feel at home. This isn’t like going to a gym to work out — it’s so that they have access at all times of the day,” Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem said. “In my experience as a player agent, the players end up spending more time here than anywhere. This will, in effect, become their home.

“We wanted to give them the feel that they’re moving into a luxury resort, where they can relax and have fun and get mentally ready to prepare for the games.”

Although most of the outside will be glass and will provide natural light, the inside still is unfinished, putting the construction crews and contractors on an eight-week window to finish by early October in time for the start of Pistons’ preseason.

The facility won’t be completed in time to host the Pistons’ training camp, which could be held offsite like last fall when it was at Michigan’s basketball facility in Ann Arbor. There are indications that it could be in East Lansing this year, though nothing has been confirmed.

The new performance center dwarfs the current one in Auburn Hills, where the Pistons have been since moving to The Palace in 1988. They’ll have two full-court practice courts and state-of-the-art training equipment, including hydro and cryogenic treatment areas.

Tellem noted that the purpose of the high-end amenities wasn’t just to recruit new players, but to retain the players they have — including Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond — to consider Detroit among the elite facilities in the league.

Providing public-use space, including an indoor-outdoor terrace for community and social events, can help give a link and access to a city-based facility that most teams around the league don’t have. Another public space outside the facility will honor the past teams and highlight their achievements.

“We wanted to be connected to the community and encourage the community to come here. Plum Market is going to have a store here and Blink Fitness will be here. We’re going to celebrate our history outside around the building,” Tellem said. “My hope is this will be a destination for our fans and the public to enjoy and experience. That’s a cool aspect of this.”

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Conceiving the Pistons' new facility took years in the making and included multiple visits to other teams’ practice facilities around the league, including the Lakers, Bulls and 76ers, to glean ideas for their own space.

One potential use is as a community basketball facility that will be able to hold high school basketball tournaments, with seating up to 1,500 or more for other events. Although all parts of the facility won’t be open to the public, Tellem says the retail areas are fairly unique around the league and there is a possibility for open practices.

“It’s going to help in that the purpose was to give our players the very best and that was (Pistons governor) Tom Gores’ vision and to make this our home and treat them like family,” Tellem said. “We will be able to give them the very best. We have the most comprehensive facilities and state-of the-art amenities.”

An open media area will have a similar look as “Good Morning America” and fans will be able to see players interviewed during some segments.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard