It’s not as though the Palace Of Auburn Hills is by any measure an antiquated arena, nor would it seem Tigers/Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch has any shortage of demands on his time and money. That said, the 81-year-old has a greater scheme in mind than merely moving the Pistons to Downtown Detroit, as the Free Press’ Michael Rosenberg outlines :
Ilitch can try to negotiate a lease with the owners of the Palace, but the terms would never be as favorable as he’d like. Karen Davidson, the Pistons’ owner for the moment, is not happy that her former CEO, Tom Wilson, went to work for Ilitch and took several key Palace employees with him. I don’t think Davidson is in any mood to cut Ilitch a sweetheart deal. The Palace is running just fine without the Red Wings.
By doing this, Ilitch can ask Mayor Dave Bing: Do you want to be the guy who lost a beloved team? Or the guy who brought one back?
So this is a bold play, and the potential payoff is huge. Ilitch could end up controlling the Southeast Michigan entertainment market. He plausibly could own a sports cable network (to televise his Tigers, Wings and Pistons) and hold concerts and other events in the city (at his new arena, along with the Fox Theatre and occasionally Comerica Park) and suburbs (at the Palace, The Place We Still Call Pine Knob and Meadow Brook Music Festival).
Or … Ilitch could pay too much for the Pistons, then discover that the Palace is a money-loser without the Pistons. But Wilson is now an expert in the finances of all the key entities here. He has obviously convinced Ilitch this can work. If he is right, it will alter the entertainment landscape in Southeast Michigan for a generation.