Wayne State, Detroit Pistons join hands for $25mn arena

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Wayne State University Image: Rossetti

Wayne State University will combine with the Detroit Pistons to build a $25 million facility on the western edge of its athletic fields, continuing the Detroit school’s push for development past the core of its Midtown campus, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“This is a win-win for everyone,” the report quoted Wayne State President Roy Wilson as saying.

The move is part of Wayne State’s continued growth, part of a master planning process underway at the school. That plan, set to be unveiled this summer, will include the consolidation of buildings, the closing of streets and other changes to the campus, Wilson said. This facility fits into the strategy of increasing the opportunities and life on the western edge of campus, he added.

The Pistons would use it for minor league games and player development.

Wayne State has relationships with the other major professional teams in the city. Its business school is named for Mike Ilitch, the former owner of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings. In both that deal and in the one with the Pistons, the agreement opens up internships for students.

The building will be on land that is currently vacant, save a rusty baseball backstop with fencing peeling away from its frame. The building will be a 70,000-square-foot arena seating 3,000. It will have one main court that can be divided into two courts; five lockers rooms; coach’s office, film room and conference room.

It will cost $25 million, with Wayne State paying for it with $22 million in bonds and $3 million in fundraising. Financial projections shared with the board show the Pistons paying $880,000 a year in rent.

The Pistons will rent the new building from the university.

Among the uses slated for the building is a home for Gatorade League basketball franchise operating as a minor league for the Pistons. Former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and current coach Dwane Casey have openly discussed the advantages of having the G-League franchise in Detroit because it would provide logistical support of young players on the roster to receive valuable playing time for skill development away from the pressure of regular NBA games.

The Grand Rapids Drive, the Pistons’ current affiliate, plays at the DeltaPlex in Walker.

The contract between the Pistons and the Drive is for two more seasons. The Pistons and Drive recently extended their operating agreement through the 2020-21 G-League season.

The $90-million Henry Ford and Detroit Pistons Performance Center is under construction in the New Center area south of Grand Boulevard and is scheduled to open in September.

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