NBA Stadium Review: The Palace of Auburn Hills

The Palace of Auburn Hills may just be the best named sporting venue in the entire country. It conjures up images and ideas which, quite frankly, seem at odds with the legacy of the Pistons and the city of Detroit, but the Palace name stands unique in an NBA world of corporate money. The Palace actually opened in 1988 at a relatively low cost of just $70 million, which is still low when converted into the $140 million in 2015 dollars it would be if constructed today.

The Palace of Auburn Hills

The Palace has become an iconic music venue which has seen the very best perform under its roof during the almost 30 years it has been open.

One cool little fact about the palace is that its name has changed every time one of its tenants has won a championship. The parcel of land the building is on is 3777 Lapeer Road, but when the Pistons won the NBA Title in the building’s opening year (1988-89) the address was changed to 1 Championship Drive. To date the Pistons have won three NBA Titles and the Detroit Shock won three WBNA Titles before moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The result is that the Pistons currently play at 6 Championship Drive.
The Palace has become an iconic music venue which has seen the very best perform under its roof during the almost 30 years it has been open. Michael Jackson sold the building out three nights in a row during his Bad World Tour in 1988, becoming the first artist to sell out the Palace more than two nights in a row. Sting was the very first musical act to play at the Palace and he has been followed by the likes of Madonna, The Cure and the Foo Fighters. The arena is also infamous for the assassination attempt on Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page which occurred during a show in 1995.
The Palace is widely considered to be the first of the modern style NBA Arenas. This is in large part due to the 180 luxury suites, which was seen as insanity when the building was first constructed. The Palace though has consistently been able to lease most of these and the revenue generated is a big reason for the team’s continued success. Today the Palace has luxury suites on multiple levels, including some underground, which are the design basis for most modern arenas.
The Palace is also different from most arenas in a number of ways. It is one of only two arenas (Madison Square Garden) in the NBA which has not sold its naming rights. It is also the only NBA arena which can hold its locations entire population inside it, as it seats 22,076 while Auburn Hills has a population of just 21,412. The success and longevity of the building speaks to the forward thinking planners who emphasized suites and club seating, revenue generating features which other suburban arenas from this time (Amway Arena, Charlotte Coliseum and Miami Arena) did not contain. The result is that those arenas are long gone while the Palace has become iconic.
Part of the reason for this success is the continual upgrading of the facilities within the building. A giant scoreboard called Palace360 has six high definition displays and live messaging and twitter interaction with fans in the arena. The newest upgrade to be unveiled is smart seating which will replace all the seats in the arena, many of which were first installed in 1988, with seats featuring near-field communications technology. This technology will allow, among other things, fans to order concession from their mobile device via their seat. With teams facing an arms race against ever improved TV broadcasts to get fans into seats, the Pistons are working every angle to make viewing a game at the Palace superior to watching from home.

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