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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pistons to Detroit, or Red Wings to Palace?

The Detroit Pistons (currently residing in Auburn Hills, at the Palace) have been on sale since early this year. In the past month or so, Mike Ilitch, owner of the Tigers and Red Wings, has emerged as the leading bidder for the Pistons, and negotiations are apparently underway. It is no secret that Ilitch has been exploring venue options for the Red Wings and that he has been angling for support to build a new hockey arena in the city. Control of the Pistons would certainly give him leverage (i.e., he could threaten to take the Red Wings to the Palace unless he gets support for a new arena).

If he does buy the Pistons, Ilitch would control 3 of the 4 major sports teams in southeast Michigan, along with most of the key entertainment venues. Ordinarily, such a monopoly could be sub-optimal (see Moroun's Bridge company). However, as some local commentators have suggested, Mr. Ilitch, while certainly in it for the money, deserves the benefit of the doubt. Certainly, I think Ilitch has proven himself to be a great sports team owner, and he would be good for the Pistons. I also think he is a proven investor in Detroit, and in the end, he will do right by the city. I am not going to say I think Ilitch buying the Pistons is the optimal scenario (I could imagine some benefits by having, say, another billionaire like Tom Gores, start to invest in the area), but the Pistons and Detroit could do much worse.

That being said, if the deal happens, there are still many possible ways it can unfold. If money were no barrier, it would certainly help revitalize the downtown/stadium area to have both the Pistons and Red Wings play in a new arena in the city (tens of thousands of people in the city for sports almost every other night, ~170 nights a year instead of ~130). However, in my view, neither the City nor Ilitch can afford a new stadium right now and credit is still tight, so I can't imagine anything coming up in Foxtown or anywhere else anytime soon. Maybe the Red Wings muddle along at the Joe, but they should probably move to the Palace for the short to medium term. The Palace is still in excellent shape and could easily host both the Pistons and the Red Wings for the next decade, so the Red Wings' stadium emergency is alleviated. In the long run, both teams should return to a new stadium in the city - maybe in 5-10 years, the City would be in better shape to support a new stadium, but even then, I don't think that the public should foot much (if any) of the bill. That being said, it certainly hurts Detroit's near term revitalization efforts to pull the Red Wings out temporarily - we just can't afford to spend that money right now. We'll see what happens.

Some other open questions on this topic:
  • Would it be feasible or make sense for the Pistons or Red Wings to play most of their games in the Palace and a handful in the City (either at the Joe or Ford Field)?
  • How could the Joe be incorporated into COBO's expansion plans, if it is abandoned by the Red Wings?
  • Since the Palace will still likely be a highly functional facility in 5-10 years, would it be able to survive/thrive without either the Pistons or the Red Wings?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Help from New York

I was pleasantly surprised to read about two separate and independent efforts to help Detroit from outside. For decades, Detroit was forgotten, but given the attention of recent years (from the Time house, the bailouts, the movie stars, etc.), people have noticed and want to help.


Time's Detroit Blog today posted about a group of Detroit expats living in New York City (a very heartening post: http://detroit.blogs.time.com/2010/10/25/only-635-miles-from-home/) who have started coming together to try and help the city from afar. One of the founders was working in a third world, central Asian republic, Kyrgyzstan, when she realized that Detroit needs just as much help, if not more. So far, it is focused on building networks and awareness, but it could become more. The effort (http://www.635mile.org/) has had a couple of meetings so far, and it could spread to other cities. It is also sending a delegation to Detroit in November for a "fact-finding" mission...it might present interesting inside-outside partnership opportunities.

That is only one of the NYC-based efforts helping Detroit that I read about today. The second effort is more indirect, through a global micro-grant site (kickstarter.com). Given the influx of artists to Detroit and groundswell of creative class activity, there are many art, film, and creative projects that can (and do) benefit from the funding opportunity presented by kickstarter.com. Detroit has been benefiting from out-sized donations for art-as-renewal projects by people around the world believing in Detroit and wanting to be part of the solution. For activists seeking to get started on a small project (e.g., micro-gardens maybe?), this could be a good start. This Free Press article has more details on the phenomenon: http://www.freep.com/article/20101025/NEWS05/10250375/1322/N.Y.-Web-site-gets-cash-from-all-over----a-lot-of-it-goes-to-Detroit