After nine months of speculation, it's official: The Palace of Auburn Hills is closing.
Bob Seger's Sept. 23 concert will be the arena's final event, Palace Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) confirmed today.
Seger's hometown show will be the poignant curtain call for a venue that has long served as metro Detroit's leading arena, witness to major sports championships and the era's big-league music stars.
While the closing may have seemed inevitable since the Detroit Pistons trumpeted their move downtown, today's announcement is the first conclusive word on the Palace's fate.
When the Pistons' departure was revealed in November, venue officials declined to publicly commit one way or another, leaving open the possibility the Palace would carry on even as the team migrated to the Detroit Red Wings' new Little Caesars Arena.
But the killer blow was quietly delivered last month as the Pistons finalized their lease arrangement with the Red Wings and signed on to a joint venture uniting their long-battling entertainment operations, PS&E and the Ilitches' Olympia Entertainment. The deal stipulated that the Palace may not compete with the new arena for event bookings, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
The Palace property is likely to be sold and redeveloped into a high-tech research park, as previously reported by the Free Press. But it's uncertain when owner Tom Gores will make that move: The Pistons' practice facility, adjacent to the arena, may be needed for two seasons as players and staff await construction of a new one near Little Caesars Arena.
Just three events remain on the Palace calendar: a Tim McGraw-Faith Hill concert (Sept. 8), a bridal expo (Sept. 10) and the Sept. 23 show by Seger — destined to be his 17th sellout at the venue.
The Seger date was announced in May. Until today, Palace officials held off declaring it the arena's final show.
The homegrown rocker makes for a fitting finale. Seger is not only one of the most prolific performers in Palace history, he's been one of the Pistons' most prominent celebrity fans, frequently spotted in the stands through the years.
Today's announcement pulls the plug on a 29-year-old arena that's still in top shape. Millions of dollars have been poured into improvements in recent years, many of them commissioned since Gores bought the facility in 2011, including remodeled entrances, leather seating and enhanced VIP amenities.
The billionaire investor purchased the Palace, the Pistons and related operations from the family of the late Bill Davidson, who broke ground on the $90 million arena in 1986.
Since opening with a Sting concert on Aug. 13, 1988, the Palace has hosted virtually every major active performer at some point — from U2 to Garth Brooks, Beyoncé to the Rolling Stones, as well as hometown heavyweights such as Eminem and Kid Rock. Along the way were big-time wrestling and UFC events, A-list comedians, March Madness games, circuses, political rallies and more.
The Palace was the site of three championship seasons for the Pistons — 1989, 1990 and 2004 — along with three for the WNBA's Detroit Shock (2003, 2006 and 2008). The arena was also home to the International Hockey League's Detroit Vipers, arena football's Detroit Fury and indoor soccer's Detroit Safari.
On the entertainment side, the Palace regularly ranked among the top 10 grossing U.S. arenas annually, and won multiple Arena of the Year honors from concert industry executives in voting conducted by Pollstar magazine.
The closure will leave just one major arena in a market that boasted three as recently as 2012, when the Palace, Joe Louis Arena and Cobo Arena gave event promoters flexible options in metro Detroit.
That means the schedule at Little Caesars Arena will be filled to the brim, as a multitude of concerts, family shows, tournaments and other special events get fitted alongside two major-league sports seasons.
Little Caesars Arena is set to open Sept. 12, first in a six-night Kid Rock stand and start of a high-profile opening stretch that will include shows from Paul McCartney, Jay Z, Guns N' Roses, Lady Gaga, the Eagles, Katy Perry and others.
The Wings will make their first LCA appearance on Sept. 23 — a preseason game against Boston — with the regular season kicking off Oct. 5 versus Minnesota. The Pistons will make their LCA debut Oct. 4 with a preseason game against Charlotte and open their regular season on Oct. 18, again versus the Hornets.
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or email@example.com.
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