In 1988, the Detroit Pistons made the move from the Silverdome in Pontiac to the elaborately named Palace of Auburn Hills. Located in a far north suburb, the Palace is located just over 32 miles from Detroit’s city center, the longest distance between an NBA arena and the primary city it represents.
The Pistons opened the new arena by winning back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990 behind the “Bad Boys” of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, et al. Fifteen years later, the cast of Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, and Rip Hamilton brought home the franchise’s third NBA championship in 2004.
Following the 2009 season, the Pistons found themselves in a state of constant disappointment, missing the playoffs in six consecutive season despite playing in a rather weak Eastern Conference. This resulted in the team ranking at or near the bottom of NBA attendance by percent of capacity.
This in part can be attributed to having the largest arena in the NBA with a capacity of 21,231. No doubt that team performance had a significant impact, but the first rule in real estate is location, location, location. When all of those things converge (isolated location, poor quality on the floor, and an oversized building) it can take away from the overall experience.
A berth in the 2016 NBA playoffs hopefully signals the start of better things again for men of Motown. This arena may be out of the way, but once you’ve arrived, it’s a great place to see an NBA game.
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The Palace offers up a good variety of food and drinks along their one single concourse which connects upper and lower level seats. There are plenty of local items, and that should be your focus, although prices seem a bit high overall.
It's a long walk all the way around the concourse, so it would be worthwhile to check the Palace concessions list before you make your visit. Specific recommendations include the Open Pit Pork Belly Sliders from Maplewood BBQ ($12) near section 123, Smoked Kielbasa from Dearborn Sausage Company at the Linkery ($10) also near section 123, or more typical items from Championship Grill near section 110.
There is also a wide variety of beverages available throughout the area. Fans of local craft beers will be attracted to the Craft Brewhouse located near section 112. You'll find selections from Michigan breweries like Bell's, Arbor Brewing Company, Dark Horse, Founders, and New Holland ($9.50). Craft cocktails go for $13.50.
Coca-Cola products are available in two sizes ($4.50 and $6.50 for a souvenir size). You can also find bottled water ($4), Monster energy drinks ($6), and Tim Hortons coffee ($2).
The Palace of Auburn Hills nails it when it comes to entertainment value. The combination of the announcer, dancers, scoreboard videos, promotions, and in-game entertainment are hard to beat.
Seats are comfortable with slightly better than average legroom, but no cup holders. Even from the very back row of the upper seating section you have a good view of the action on the floor. The court design is classic bordered in red with the circular Pistons logo at center court.
The center scoreboard is one of the best in the league, with large screens and angled screens so that you have a view of the replays, video montages, and statistics whether you are sitting courtside or behind the baselines. It's large without being the monstrosity that is taking over at many sports venues these days.
John Mason is a name you probably have never heard, but he is a master of the mic as the PA announcer at the Palace of Auburn Hills. His signature call of "Deeeee-troit Baaasket-balllll!" is perfect. He no doubt adds to the overall experience.
The Pistons offer a rather good drumline and dance team and you will hear and see them throughout the game during breaks in the action. Hooper, the Pistons' horse-themed mascot, is also present in the stands and on the court throughout the contest. Look for Hooper to man a t-shirt turret and shoot shirts into the stands.
The Detroit Pistons also do a good job of attracting popular (or once popular) artists. In 2016, halftime performers included CeeLo Green, Young MC, The Four Tops, and Uncle Kracker.
For seating options, shoot for sections 201 or 230 so you are in the upper section near center court with a view of both benches. These seats provide good value as well as a good perspective of everything happening on the floor below.
There's no doubt that location is the biggest negative of attending a Pistons game, although there are a couple of options for pre or post game food or drinks.
Ciccarelli's 22 Sports Bar is located just across the street from the Palace, and has some of the biggest screens that you will encounter in a sports bar, including HD Theatre Projection screens. There are at least 40 screens in all, and they do a good job of ensuring that the day's biggest games are up for your viewing pleasure. The food is good as well with sort of a Canadian-Italian undertone to the pub grub, including poutine and arancini mixed in with burgers, BBQ, pizza, and pasta.
A mile or so down the road is another classic sports bar, Hoops. They've been a mainstay in the area for more than two decades. Go for the wings here, or one of their burgers or sandwiches.
If you are looking for additional sports experiences while you're in the area, check the schedule for the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies who put on a good show in nearby Rochester at the O'rena.Of course during the season there are also opportunities to find doubeheader opportunities with the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, and to a lesser extent with the Lions at Ford Field or Tigers at Comerica Park.
Auto enthusiasts should make a trip to the Walter P. Chrysler Museum. If you are looking for a hotel near the arena, then the Hawthorn Suites by Windham is your best bet.
The Pistons have ranked at 25th or lower in average attendance in the NBA in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2004, the team led the league in average attendance. Sure, that was a championship season, but the point is that the basketball fans in southeast Michigan have the wherewithal to make the trip to Auburn Hills when there is a quality team on the court. Now that the Pistons have once again returned to the playoffs, and have an exciting nucleus, it is time for Pistons fans to return and make an impact in the seats.
In the meantime, the benefit of having 5,000 or so empty seats is that you should be able to move around almost anywhere in the upper section to choose your seat. Seat assignments are more strictly enforced in the lower sections.
The fans that come to the Palace are knowledgeable of the sport and show good etiquette. You won't see fans walking around very often while the ball is in play.
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. During the week you can expect some rush hour traffic all around the Detroit metro area so plan accordingly and give yourself extra time. Parking will cost you $15 for Pistons games, and unfortunately you don't have many options as there is no street parking to speak of, but there is plenty of room in the large lot surrounding the Palace. This price point is about average compared to the rest of the NBA. Given the low attendance, it may be wise to cut that cost down a bit to attract more fans.
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, although you will find lines for both men's and women's restrooms during peak periods.
Tickets for Pistons games can often be found for as low as $8-$12 on ticket marketplaces like Ticket Monster. Parking is near league average at $15, and food and beverage prices are about right, maybe slightly on the high side. Overall, everything is priced at about what you would expect. Look for daily deals in the Pistons team shop as well, especially as the season winds down.
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.
One final extra point for the three championship banners and many retired jerseys hanging from the rafters at the Palace.
This is a proud franchise that seems to be on a resurgence. While the location isn't ideal, the facility and in-game entertainment more than make up for any hassle in making the drive up to Auburn Hills.
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.
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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