Throughout the concourses at The Palace of Auburn Hills every once in a while you will hear a fan bellow out “DEEE-TROIT BAS-KET-BALL!!” The uniquely Detroit cry, coined by PA announcer John Mason, is the calling card for the Pistons and a cry that you will hear often within the confines of the Palace.
The Pistons were founded in 1941 in Fort Wayne and eventually made the move to the Motor City in 1957. Since that time they have played in numerous venues. In the sixties they called Cobo Arena home, but then moved away from downtown, as did many Detroit businesses, and shared a home with the Detroit Lions at the Silverdome in Pontiac. The cavernous football stadium saw the birth of Detroit’s “Bad Boy” era with a rough and tumble team led by Isiah Thomas. The culmination of that era was found when the Pistons moved another town over to Auburn Hills and The Palace of Auburn Hills in 1988. Championship Drive was christened with NBA championships in 1989 and 1990 as the Pistons would bridge the Lakers/Celtics era with the Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls era. The Pistons would add another championship in 2004, which was one of the most surprising that the league has seen.
The Pistons golden age was enjoyed by one of the most successful sports owners ever in William Davidson. Upon his death, his estate would sell the Pistons and The Palace to Platinum Equity founder, Tom Gores. The current Pistons have found it challenging to find success on the court and bring fans through the turnstiles among the economic uncertainty found in Detroit. However, a trip to see the Pistons is an experience that sports fans will enjoy and is one of the more affordable in the big 4 sports leagues.
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The Palace offers a number of concession options that you will find interesting. All of the expected offerings can be found at the majority of concession stands. The prices are about what you would expect at a major sports venue [hot dog $4.25; popcorn $5.50; soda $4; beer $9.50]. You can also find pizza, ice cream, nachos and kielbasa easily enough. If you are looking for something with a little bit more there is a food court area with seats and tables that is a good spot to grab a bite before a game. In this area you can get your Buffalo Wild Wings fix or visit the Biergarten for a variety of beer or try the Burger Bar for a great selection of burgers.
The Palace of Auburn Hills is a great place to watch a basketball game and the Pistons organization do a great job of offering a full entertainment experience. Outside, The Palace is an oddly shaped building with a combination of green glass and brown/orange brick. It is a healthy cross between the architecture of the eighties and the more modern architecture which accentuates natural light. Upon entering the west atrium from the expansive parking lot will find you at the foot of the Palace. In this waiting area you will find the team store, which may or may not excite you, however sure to cause a selfie or two will be the 3 Larry O'Brien Trophies that the Pistons have earned as NBA champions. After you have passed through security at ground level, you will need to advance a large staircase to get to the main concourse level. The main concourse offers decent natural light, but is fairly non-descript and doesn't offer too much to catch the eye.
The Palace offers two main seating bowls inside the main arena. Both are accessed from the main concourse. Seats are padded and comfortable and sightlines are pretty good throughout the arena. A new addition to the Palace is a massive set of video boards that are similar to those found at AT&T Stadium or Quicken Loans Arena. The boards offer 6 separate screens, are curved and crystal clear. The court in the Palace is a north-south configuration. Above the court on the north side you will find the 5 conference championship banners. In the center, you will find banners honoring the 1989, 1990, and 2004 NBA championships. In the south rafters hang the retired numbers and honored personnel for the Pistons. Then numbers of Bill Laimbeer, Dave Bing, Bob Lanier, Vinnie Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars hang as well as the number 2 for coach Chuck Daly, a banner for general manager Jack McClosky and owner William Davidson.
The in-game experience is as good as any other in the league. It begins with charismatic public address announcer John Mason who pumps up the crowd on Piston player introductions, produces the fastest, blandest introductions for the visiting players and really gets the crowd crazy on a turnover with his patented "DEEE-TROIT BAS-KET-BALL" cry. There are a variety of entertainment performances at a Pistons game including dancers, cheerleaders, musicians and acrobats. At the game that was reviewed, the final home game of the season, the Pistons put them all together to perform between quarters as the Detroit Pistons Entertainment Team. For every three-point shot the Pistons score, the promo-team throws t-shirts in the crowd as part of the "Tees for Threes" promo. The Pistons' mascot, Hooper, also does a great job entertaining the crowd. Possibly the lone holdover from the Grant Hill era where the team wore teal and used the "horsepower logo" Hooper is also part of the acrobatic team and does as good a job as any other mascot in the league.
Auburn Hills is a suburb of Detroit located to the northwest of the city. It is quite a distance from downtown Detroit. It is difficult to say whether that is an advantage or disadvantage. It is true that the Palace and Auburn Hills have a limited selection of food and entertainment options near, but downtown Detroit remains a place that remains fairly run-down and not a desirable place to be for many. There are a couple of food options that are close and may be worth consideration. These include Ciccarelli's Sports Bar, which is just across the road, Guido's Premium Pizza, Hoops and the Old Detroit Burger Bar.
If you have a little time to kill before or after a game, you may consider a bit of a historic drive past the old Silverdome. It is in rough shape now, but it remains the host of the Lions and Pistons for numerous years, and the home of the legendary WrestleMania III event that broke the indoor attendance record. If you are looking for a more sport specific option near, Oakland University is just minutes away from Auburn Hills in Rochester and the Oakland Golden Grizzlies basketball team is a fun experience. Other than that, you will be heading to downtown Detroit to catch the Red Wings, Lions, or Tigers.
Economic hardship in Detroit and Michigan, combined with poor performance on the court over the last number of years has produced some seriously soft attendance numbers for the Pistons. Over the past four seasons the Pistons have averaged somewhere between 14,400 and 15,300 fans per game. They have slowly increased their attendance over the past 4 seasons, but remain near the bottom of NBA attendance. One must also question whether the push to move back downtown spearheaded by Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch has also made the Pistons' location undesirable. That being said, the fans at Pistons games are loud, intelligent and boisterous. Combined with the new regime of Stan Van Gundy running the Pistons show, hopefully the product on the court will get better and the crowds will return to the Palace.
Getting to the Palace is not too difficult. It is located immediately east of I-75 and west of Highway 24. The local police and Palace officials do a terrific job of moving traffic out when the event is over. This is a huge bonus considering that arenas and stadiums that are in more rural areas tend to have more difficult times getting traffic moving slowly. (see Ralph Wilson Stadium).
Inside The Palace, the abundance of stairs is a bit daunting. Sharing one concourse for both the upper and lower bowl increases traffic and the concourses are not that wide to begin with. Washroom facilities are adequate.
The average ticket price for a Pistons game is $38. This is nearly $20 below the league average of $54. Concession prices are not fantastic, but not out of the region of what is expected for a major league facility. Parking is $10 for a Pistons game, which is pretty good. Put that all together and you have a formula for a great experience at a price that is pretty affordable.
An extra mark for PA announcer John Mason who brings so much to the Pistons experience.
An extra mark for the Palace being the first major arena being built while being completely privately financed.
An extra mark for Hooper and his slapstick routine that he plays with visiting players during the warmup.
A trip to the Pistons is a necessity for all true basketball fans. With any luck the Pistons will continue to improve on the court and The Palace of Auburn Hills will be running on all cylinders once again. When that happens, the roof may just blow off when the fans join in on the chant "DEE-TROIT BAS-KET-BALL!"
The distance between the Pistons' home and their fan base is greater than any of Detroit's other three major league teams. Situated in Auburn Hills, the extreme northern end of Detroit's metropolitan area, the Palace is worth adding the extra mileage.
Late owner Bill Davidson built the Pistons' first modern facility in 1988, after sharing three unsuitable venues the previous 30 years. And like new Yankee Stadium in 2009, it housed a world champion the year it opened.
Financed entirely with private money, the arena cost $70-million to construct. Along with the Pistons, the Palace was also home to the WNBA's Detroit Shock for 11 years before the franchise relocated to Tulsa, OK. In the offseason and when the Pistons hit the road, it doubles as a premier concert venue, attracting high-profile acts like Bon Jovi and Neil Diamond.
It's amazing to think that the Palace is already nearing a quarter decade old. I remember when the Palace was first unveiled, and it was such an upgrade over the Silverdome that it was unbelievable. Today it is still a great facility, I just wish that it was closer to the revitalized sports district in the city of Detroit, rather than up in Auburn Hills.
In 1988, the Detroit Pistons moved out of the cavernous Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan and set up shop in the nearby suburb of Auburn Hills, Michigan. Their new home was audaciously named "The Palace," and it was meant to usher the Pistons into a new era of championship basketball.
Sure enough, the Pistons won the franchise’s first NBA Championship in that inaugural season, and went on to repeat in the 1989-1990 season. The Pistons claimed their third championship in 2004. Only the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, and Spurs can boast about winning more NBA titles than Detroit.
Today, as we approach the silver anniversary of The Palace, much of the venue continues to have that shiny and new feel. Renovations continue, including the current renovations going on in the entryway and at the box office. The purplish composition of red and blue is being replaced by blue and silver (don’t worry, there are no plans to reclaim the teal color of the Grant Hill era).
While the Pistons are fully immersed in re-building mode, the arena experience retains an atmosphere that feels like you are seeing one of the best teams in the NBA.
I can't begin to express how terrific the Palace of Auburn Hills was. I LITERALLY stepped foot into the palace for my first game on 11-12-12 against the Thunder of Oklahoma City. We lost 90-92, but I still had fun. I liked the food, arena atmosphere, the game itself, the PA Announcer Eric Mason, the seats, the view and the lobby. What I wasn't to find of was the audio system, Mason's voice faded in and out. It's just totally amazing. I went with my sister and brother-in-law. I truly want to come back again sometime, if you haven't been to a game yet, then drive on down to cheer on motown.
The lights go down and the bass pumps through the speakers with an intensity to restart your heart. Unbelievably, this is nearly the 25th anniversary of Detroit Pistons basketball at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The product may not be the championship caliber that Pistons fans expect from their team, but the overall arena experience is everything that a fan of the NBA could ask for.
It’s easy to remember the days when the Palace was the premiere venue in the NBA. The Pistons moved from the cavernous Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan and moved northeast to the suburb of Auburn Hills, north of Detroit.
The Pistons were able to win championships in the first two seasons in the Palace, and claimed a third title in 2004.
Much of the arena still feels shiny and new, and recent renovations that have made for a cleaner presentation in the concourse, and added some innovative group and party areas helping make the Palace a wonderful place to see the NBA. Now the team just needs to show improvement in the win column and the fans need to come out to see them.
If you like basketball and you know how to drive a car, the Palace is a perfect place for you. This building is 25 years old and it's still a great place to watch a game. It opened back in the glory years of the Pistons during the "Bad Boy" Era when tickets to a Piston game we're nearly impossible to come by. Nowadays they have to beg people to show up with numerous promotions. With the economy being what it is, it's worth the value to see an NBA game. It makes for great entertainment for the whole family.The Palace is located 30 miles North of downtown Detroit in Auburn Hills on I-75. They shoot t-shirts into the stands when a Pistons make a three point shot which is really cool. By reading this, you'll be ready if and when they make one. Hope the Pistons can return to the glory days soon but in the meantime enjoy the cost effectiveness of seeing a game there.
4313 S. Baldwin Rd.
Lake Orion, MI 48359
4391 Lapeer Rd.
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
1650 N Opdyke Rd
Auburn Hills, MI 48326