The Arena That Changed The NBA Is Facing The Wrecking Ball

We’ve already said goodbye.

It is almost time to say goodbye to the 31-year-old Palace of Auburn Hills that stands in a Detroit suburb. In the mid-1980s, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson spent $70 million to construct the venue. Davidson’s 1988 NBA arena was built with the corporate customer, not the average Pistons or basketball or sports fan in mind. The Davidson arena had 180 luxury boxes which generated much more money than average seats. The building stood in marked contrast to the arenas that were built for expansion teams in Charlotte, Miami and Orlando during that time period which had just a handful of luxury boxes. Two years after the Miami arena opened in 1988, NBA Commissioner David Stern was wondering out loud why his league bothered to put a team in an arena that lacked high revenue generating luxury boxes and high-end seating. 

Almost five years after the Orlando Magic building opened in 1989, Magic executive Pat Williams started talking about the need for a new Magic home. Orlando suffered from the same problem that Miami had. Not enough high end revenue producing seats. In Charlotte, Hornets owner George Shinn was unhappy with his situation at an arena which had the largest seating capacity in the NBA but few luxury boxes. Shinn pushed for a new arena and would eventually move his business to New Orleans in 2002 after Charlotte voters said no to funding a new facility. The NBA placed an expansion team in Charlotte in 2003 when funding for a new building was approved. The Charlotte arena lasted just 17 years. Miami and Orlando also got new buildings. The Detroit Pistons franchise moved to downtown Detroit in 2017. Pistons ownership is selling the old place’s seats, lockers and other stuff. Davidson’s building changed the NBA but it will soon be demolished. The old joint did not have enough revenue streams.