Deep in central India, nestled within the southern bank of the Yamuna River, sits one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Taj Mahal. Celebrated globally as an embodiment of love, the story of the Taj Mahal bridges nearly four centuries. Emperor Shah Jahan, distraught after the passing of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, commissioned a mausoleum to be built in her honor. Shah Jahan was a man of boundless wealth. He ordered that no expense be spared in honoring his wife, insisting that the Taj Mahal be a delineation of his love and admiration for Mumtaz. It took 22 years and 20,000 men, but since its completion in 1653 it has been recognized as one of the greatest architectural achievements in human history and lauded for its symmetry, rhythmic design, arches, domes, and color combinations which aid the aesthetic of the surrounding gardens. The Taj Mahal is a magnet for people from all corners of the earth, seeking a first-hand look at love exemplified in rock and clay. Poet Sir Edwin Arnold described the Taj Mahal as “not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.”
Okay, the history lesson is over. I promise. Now we can talk about what all of it has to do with the Pistons. To start, we’re going to do a character-substitution exercise. Imagine a present-day version of the events preceding the construction of the Taj Mahal: a man of (by most standards) incalculable wealth, tasked with restoring honor to the carcass of a once proud and esteemed loved one. Does it remind you of anyone? Or any team? (Spoiler alert: Tom Gores is Shah Jahan, and the Detroit Pistons are Mumtaz Mahal. Okay, no, the Pistons aren’t dead – but hasn’t it felt like it?)
A large contingent of Pistons faithful might scoff at the idea of Gores even casting a line in that deep wallet of his, but most would be shocked to learn that he already has – he just wasn’t fishing for a player. On October 23, 2017, ground broke on Gores’ version of the Taj Mahal: the Henry Ford Health System Pistons Performance Center. With the grand opening set to take place shortly before the 2019-20 season tips off in October, the new Pistons Performance Center is poised to be the catalyst for the next era of championship-level basketball in the Motor City. I posit that within five years (yes, f-i-v-e), the Pistons may be settling into a role as one of the NBA’s powerhouses for decades to come, primarily as a result of Gores’ architectural profession of love and admiration for his players.
Join me as I lead an exploration into the new Pistons Performance Center and discuss why it is the best move the Detroit Pistons will make in 2019.
What is the Pistons Performance Center?
The Pistons Performance Center (PPC), upon completion, will serve as the corporate headquarters, practice home, and sports medicine facility of the Detroit Pistons. Located roughly two miles north of Little Caesars Arena, the PPC will be four stories tall and cover 175,000 square feet. Designed and built by Detroit-based ROSSETTI, it is easily the biggest facility of its kind in the NBA – and not one square foot will be overlooked, being delegated between the three different aspects of the facility: basketball, medicine, and community.
The PPC will be devoted entirely to the Pistons players and their endeavors. The surfeit of amenities that players will have access to includes (but is not limited to): two full length basketball courts, nine basketball hoops, a weight room with state-of-the-art technology, a modern player lounge and locker room, film and study rooms, training rooms with hydro- and cryogenic treatment systems, production studio and interview rooms, a 24-hour staffed kitchen, a barbershop, and a private-access parking structure.
While the first floor will function as a playground for the Pistons players, the second floor will house the front office employees, serving as the headquarters for basketball operations. The PPC will epitomize the ideal 21st-century corporate setting for the basketball operations staff to work and continue stimulating growth within the organization.
Objectively, the most critical aspect of the PPC is the impact it will have on the players and their health in both the short and long-term. In 2017, Henry Ford Health System announced a partnership with the Pistons, and subsequently organized the construction of a sports medicine and rehabilitation center to be housed in the PPC. Once finished, the HFHS sports medicine complex will be fully staffed with a team of nationally-recognized doctors and nurses who will be there with the sole purpose of providing round the clock care to the Pistons players, who will only be a short walk away. Additionally, the medical staff will have access to the very best equipment, including brand new X-ray and MRI technology which will ensure players are being looked after in the best possible fashion with the best possible means.
“Whether it’s a professional athlete, or, any of our patients, we know how vital it is to treat the whole person, and that’s what makes our ‘team medicine’ approach so unique.”
Wright. L. Lassiter III, Henry Ford President and CEOHenry Ford Health System
In the short-term, players who may experience an injury will receive top-flight care within the confines of their team headquarters while not having to spend much time away from the teammates. Having a comprehensive medical facility on-site will allow players to be diagnosed and treated promptly with the highest possible quality of care, to rehab efficiently and locally, and to be monitored in their healing while never having to stray far from home or team.
In the long-term, players who may experience or have experienced severe injury in the past will be looked after by a team of doctors with hundreds of years of cumulative experience that have spent entire careers striving to ensure that their patients can live a long and healthy life. In fostering this partnership, Mr. Gores, the Pistons and HFHS are sending a clear message that they are prioritizing the long-term health and livelihood of Detroit Pistons players beyond basketball. That won’t be something that current – or future – players take too lightly.
Built with the inclusion of the city at the forefront of thought, the PPC will also include public spaces to maximize interaction with metro-Detroit residents. The PPC will house Blink Fitness, a public-access workout center that will occupy 15,000 square feet. After people wrap up their workout, they will be able to head down the hall and enter the Plum Market for a healthy snack or smoothie. The PPC location will be the first venture into Detroit for the Farmington Hills-based grocer. Blink Fitness and Plum Market will both be open 24 hours.
The Pistons practice courts will be equipped with seating for up to 1,500 people, which in turn will be utilized for fan interaction events, camps, and eventually to host high school games.
“When you look at the whole development and the unique partnership with Henry Ford, it’s so much more. We are bringing more jobs into the city and creating another catalyst for additional investment. It will be another cornerstone in the revitalization of this community.”
Tom Gores, Pistons GovernorHenry Ford Health System
Beyond access to the public, the PPC is impacting the community in a far more salient manner: cultivating growth economically, bringing jobs to the area, and showcasing the creativity and culture of metro Detroit.
Although I did exalt Tom Gores to emperor status at the beginning of this, I must confide that he has not been the sole proprietor of this project. On June 6, 2017, a 7-2 vote passed which approved the development plan for the PPC. Among the stipulations of the agreement was a brownfield tax incentive which will see $20 million collected through local and school taxes. The total cost of the PPC was roughly $90 million, meaning around 78% of the funding was private, while publicly raised funds accounted for approximately 22% of the financing (LCA was split 62/38, for the curious reader).
However, an immediate and sustained benefit from relocating the Pistons corporate headquarters and team practice facility will be the estimated $596.2 million in the total economic impact it has on Metro Detroit, according to a University of Michigan study. The hope here is that the financial return that the PPC provides will not necessarily offset, but alleviate any frustrations with the brownfield agreement.
Coming to Detroit with the PPC are hundreds of jobs – 442 to be specific – and they are all permanent positions. However, those numbers do not reference the construction jobs which were created by the PPC. Over 1,700 men and women who have been working construction on the PPC for nearly two years. In total, the PPC has provided over 2,100 jobs for metro Detroit residents.
“We’re going to employ hundreds of people downtown; we’re going to be paying city income taxes where the city is going to get dollars every year, when you talk about the players’ (salaries), that will be significant income. So we’re going to be contributing in a lot of ways … the economic impact we will have on the city will be in the hundreds of millions.”
Arn Tellum, Pistons ChairmanJohn Gallagher, Detroit Free Press
Showcasing Local Culture
The Pistons are utilizing a very unique and inclusive strategy in decorating the Performance Center by building an art gallery which will strictly showcase metro Detroit artists. In March 2019, the Pistons announced they were seeking artwork in any medium from metro Detroit artists of any experience level and ability. In displaying artwork from exclusively metro Detroit artists, the Pistons are invigorating the local art community and putting the culture and creativity of Detroit on a pedestal for visitors to absorb.
Building the PPC is Building a Winning Culture
*this is where tantalizing mirages may begin to reveal themselves to Pistons fans…
In the last few years, several organizations across the NBA have built new practice facilities. It may encourage you, then, to learn that the projected top five teams (when healthy) in the East are all on that list of organizations who chose to invest in their players and build them a haven for honing the hardwood. The 76ers, Bucks, Celtics, Nets, and Raptors have all completed practice facilities since 2016, and it is no coincidence that those five programs are currently thriving when it comes to the two most important pillars of assembling a powerhouse in today’s NBA: Free Agency and Player Development.
In today’s day and age, top-flight free agents want to know a few things.
- What can you provide for me off the court?
- How competently is this organization ran?
- Where will I be spending the lion’s share of my time?
- Can we compete for an NBA title?
Due to the PPC, for the first time in a long time, the Pistons will very soon be able to answer all of these questions with full honesty and transparency – and free agents will fall in love (cap space willing). With all of the comforts of the player-focused design, the front office being a staircase away, and offering round the clock attention, Detroit will soon be a vastly more attractive destination.
According to Tellum, Mr. Gores has “enthusiastically endorsed” all requests from players and staff regarding features and amenities. Seeing this fervent support from Gores is clear evidence of his intention to deliver, with no holds barred, on his promise to give Pistons players the very best – not just in the Central Division, or Eastern Conference, but the entire NBA. The league has never seen a building like the PPC. It is larger than any other practice facility and features more provisions than any other venue by a country mile. Mr. Gores, Mr. Tellum, and the organization have soared past their goal of creating the absolute most unrivaled training facility in the NBA.
“The purpose was to give our players the very best and that was (Pistons governor) Tom Gores’ vision and to make this our home and treat them like family … We will be able to give them the very best. We have the most comprehensive facilities and state-of the-art amenities.”Rod Beard, DetroitNews.com
Arn Tellum, Pistons Chairman
Finally, the HFHS sports medicine complex will quell any fears or predispositions a free agent may have regarding player care in Detroit. A player can take solace in knowing that once they sign on the dotted line, they will never be further than a stone’s throw away from one of the most diligent medical staffs in the entire country.
It wouldn’t be a hot take to think that Kevin Durant might have had career longevity and quality of life after basketball in mind when mulling his options in free agency this offseason. It goes without saying that Detroit will never pale in comparison to New York as a media market – and I’m not suggesting that the Pistons will be in the running for any KD’s in the near future – but there is a reason Durant chose the Nets over the Knicks, and it should uplift your spirits as a Pistons fan. The Nets have been steadfastly in support of their athletes and have nurtured a player-focused, hyper-attentive, health-centric atmosphere within their new training facility. Those factors played a huge role in drawing Durant to Brooklyn. Detroit has been following suit and may soon have that same allure.
The most glaring flaw regarding the Pistons as an organization for the past, well ever, has been player development. The Pistons have failed when drafting players with high ceilings, mostly due to incompetent or mismanaged development, causing situations à la Khris Middleton (yes, there are many more). The Pistons have also failed when drafting lower ceiling players with NBA readiness by way of failure to bring them up to speed and stuffing them 12 seats deep on the bench.
With Detroit set to adopt a second G-League team in 2021, which will play out of the PPC. Players on rookie and two-way contracts will be able to spend their time practicing and getting runs in with the professional team, playing in their G-League games, and being readily available in the event they are called up to the Pistons for a game or a trip. For the first time, developing prospects for the Pistons will be able to do all of these things in the same place.
Given that, if GM Ed Stefanski and the front office continue drafting with the promise they have shown, young players will be positioned to burgeon and blossom at a level never seen in Detroit. Now, aren’t you a little more excited about 18-year-old Sekou Doumbouya and how his development is going to progress?
The Pistons have a former Coach of the Year, rejuvenated superstar(s), a handful of young players with unrealized potential, a deeper bench than most realize, and will soon be owners of the NBA’s very best and most intricate training facility. I extend caution with this optimism, but that sounds like a recipe for a winning culture.
Gores has been meticulous. Yearning for and requiring perfection, an immense amount of research and legwork was completed to concoct the consummate training facility. Pistons associate general manager Pat Garrity and Chief of Staff Andrew Loomis toured the country, visiting countless training facilities and documenting every possible feature that they could incorporate into the PPC. Not wanting to limit their scope of options, they visited dozens of basketball and football facilities at both the college and professional level in a concerted effort to exhaust every avenue of exploration in creating the ideal facility for the elite athletes of today.
The Detroit Pistons (and their fans) want to compete for NBA titles. The Pistons Performance Center represents an obvious effort on behalf of the organization to galvanize the culture and start winning a lot of basketball games. Given the world of luxuries that Pistons players will be immersed in and the means the entire organization now has access to, there is no excuse for the Detroit Pistons not to be annually contending for championships by 2025.
Tom Gores has played the part of Shah Jahan. Only time will tell if his performance was Oscar-worthy. Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony this autumn, he should feel content in sitting back to take pause and absorb the scene, the moment, the opportunity.
He has built his players their own Taj Mahal, sparing no expense and providing scrupulous attention to detail to furnish a promise to his ‘Mumtaz Mahal’ – the Detroit Pistons.
It’s fitting, then, that her name translates in English to “Jewel of the Palace.”
Featured Image: ROSSETTI