Take a look back at The Palace features in the JN.
It was announced last week that demolition began at the Palace of Auburn Hills, home of the Detroit Pistons for nearly 30 years. The Palace is joining Joe Louis Arena, the Silverdome and the venerable Tiger Stadium as Detroit-area arenas that have disappeared over the past two decades. Of the venues that existed when the Palace first opened, only Cobo Hall — now known as TCF Center — still stands.
The story of the Palace is also a story involving three leading citizens from Detroit’s Jewish community. Costing about $90 million in 1980s’ dollars (maybe $200 million today), it was a controversial project from the beginning because it represented competition for the other Detroit-area stadiums mentioned above, as well as a moment of classic suburb vs. city tension.
The Palace was privately funded by Jewish Detroiters William Davidson, David Hermelin and Robert Sosnick. Davidson made his fortune as an innovator in automotive glass. In the 1980s, he also owned the Detroit Pistons. Hermelin was an influential businessman who kept a low profile and was eventually appointed U.S. Ambassador to Norway. Sosnick was one of Oakland County’s premier developers and builders. All three of these men were not only extremely successful businessmen, they were also prominent philanthropists, supporting innumerable Jewish causes in Metro Detroit and Israel.
When the Palace opened, it was perhaps the most modern, innovative sports venue in America. It was a trendsetter as a professional basketball stadium and as a setting for other entertainments such as music concerts. The first scheduled event in October 1988 was an appearance by the musical artist Sting; the last event was a concert by Michigan’s own Bob Seger on Sept. 23, 2017.
I found a number of stories about the Palace in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History. Two stories stood out from the many references to events at the Palace.
First, there are five pages of reports in the Oct. 24, 1986, issue of the JN covering the origins of the Palace, the three developers of the venue and some of the controversary regarding the anticipated competition with other Detroit stadiums. There was, as you might imagine, some consternation over moving the “Detroit” Pistons to the suburbs. And, of course, worries about increases in ticket prices — a historic concern whenever a new arena opens.
Another interesting story in the Oct. 28, 1988, issue of the JN is about one of the first events after the opening of the Palace, the famous Moscow Circus. This was during the era when the Soviet Union would not let Jews freely migrate and, often, did its best to suppress Jewish culture. The question was: Did booking the Moscow Circus foster improved relations with the Soviet Union or contribute to its suppression of Jews?
At the least, during its 30 years of operation, one can say that the Palace was indeed a Palace of sports and music. Time marches on, however. The Pistons now play at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, along with the Red Wings, and LCA hosts many other events. It will do so until, sometime years from now, that arena runs its course and is replaced by a new one. And, we’ll complain about a rise in ticket prices again.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.