NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
Andre Drummond recently tweeted that Little Caesars Arena is too much hockey and not enough basketball. While the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons aren’t the first, or only, NHL and NBA teams to share the same home court, there may be some disadvantages to these two teams calling the same place home. I mean, how would you feel if you walked into your new home and felt unwelcome?
I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little pissed about the LCA merger. Sure, I’m happy the Detroit Pistons are finally playing in DETROIT. And, yeah, it’s great the Wings are in a new state-of-the-art facility. But, for one, I loved the Joe — what Wings fan didn’t? And second, I don’t want to share — nothing against the Stones. So basically I’m just a Hockeytown snob. But there have got to be some benefits to the Wings and the Pistons playing in the same house, right? Let’s take a look.
By bringing the Pistons to play in Detroit for the first time since 1978, Tom Gores has helped develop a phenomenal sports district downtown with both Comerica Park and Ford Field less than a mile away from the multi-purpose LCA. Along with the move, the Pistons announced in February that they’ll also be opening a new corporate headquarters and practice facility for the 2018-19 season in the New Center district. This could mean an addition of more than 250 jobs downtown.
Palace Sports & Entertainment vice chairman Arn Tellem told the Detroit Free Press,
It’s really Tom’s idea that [the Pistons] are a great platform, they’re a community asset and, with that, requires us to be socially responsible and, of course, it’s about winning games and entertaining our fans, but I really do believe that he believes, more importantly, that it’s about inspiring our youth, unifying our community and improving the lives of others.
In total, the Pistons agreed to 10 community benefits in their plans to move. That’s a huge win for the city and people of Detroit.
While there’s no confirmation on what will replace it, we do know The Joe will be demolished, leaving some pretty nice riverfront real estate up for grabs. This gives Detroit an opportunity to build a new development along the riverfront. In early 2016, Mayor Mike Duggan said it will likely be replaced with a residential high-rise.
The addition of LCA itself can also be seen as a negative for Detroit when it comes to funding its construction costs. While the bankrupt city didn’t have to pay for the arena, it’s also no longer in a position to cash in on home game revenue. Previously, Detroit brought in about $7 million annually, collecting a share of revenue from home games, concessions, and parking. But someone has to pay, and $284.5 million of the bill will be a public investment. Meaning taxpayers and potentially Detroit public schools will be out the money. So unless Detroit sees a huge resurgence and extreme profits from LCA, future youth may pay with their education (or lack thereof).
The funding issue has gotten a lot of flack in the media, including on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (cut to the 02:55 mark).
As a fan I was hopeful we might see a decrease in Wings ticket prices in the new arena, especially following the price hike we saw with the Farewell to the Joe season. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But it looks like the cost for Pistons tickets is pretty reasonable.
Let’s not discount the fact that the Pistons left behind the Palace of Auburn Hills, more than 35 miles north of Detroit. The arena is 29 years old and in decent shape. To date, no plans have been released regarding the future of the site. But Bob Seger’s September 23 show was announced as The Palace’s last event. So, for now, it’s just sitting there … empty.
So back to what it means for an NHL and NBA team to be sharing their space. This isn’t unique; in fact, a number of franchises in major sports towns across the country have the same setup. In Chicago, the Blackhawks and Bulls play at the United Center. Out in New York, the Knicks and Rangers share Madison Square Garden and the Nets and Islanders share the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. And the list goes on.
To date, there hasn’t appeared to be many challenges scheduling home games for these teams during the regular season. However, when it comes time for the playoffs, things can get a bit tricky. In fact, in 2012 the Staples Center in Los Angeles hosted six playoff games in four days after all three of its teams — the Kings, Clippers, and Lakers — made it to the postseason. This included two day-night doubleheaders for the staff, one which required flipping the arena from a rink to a court. It’s insane, but they pulled it off and brought a ton of people downtown. I would welcome a Red Wings-Pistons playoff run.
When it comes down to it, it’s hard to determine whether the pros or cons win out. Ultimately, it all comes down to money. We’ll have to wait to see what LCA means for the future of Detroit.