If you have been watching the decision unfold about the Pistons move to Detroit, you may have a lot of questions that remain unanswered. Yesterday’s announcement, while not a surprise to most of us at City Hall, provides the City with future opportunities on the 110-acre parcel of land that is located at a major interchange with frontage along I-75. Arenas nowadays tend to have some significant level of public funding included in them. Auburn Hills was always proud of the fact that Mr. Davidson, the former owner of The Palace and the Pistons, privately funded The Palace without any public monies. In other words, the private sector funded the project and the private sector profited from it. Some might say that should be a national model, but I’ll leave that up to your own views on the subject. For large governments throughout the United States who have tremendous budgets, providing incentives or even owning arenas and stadiums is a possibility. However, it is very unusual for a major sports arena to be built in a town of about seventeen square miles with 23,000 residents. So for those who might think that Auburn Hills should have acquired the arena and the property for hundreds of millions of dollars in order to keep the team here, you need to know that the City’s total annual General Fund budget is about $25 million. We’re hardly in a position to own an arena.
We will be expecting to roll up our sleeves and work with Palace representatives on the future use of the property. If you listened to yesterday’s announcement, the one thing you did not hear from owner Tom Gores is a definitive plan for The Palace property. So rather than speculate and add yet another version of what “might happen”, we’re going to exercise patience and learn more about what he and his executives have in mind for the property, whether or not that includes the arena. As plans unfold, we will be sure to share that information with our citizens through a public planning process.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
Tom Tanghe, City Manager