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Pistons' Palace of Auburn Hills imploded in a cloud of dust to cheers and shock

Omari Sankofa II, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Basketball

It was the site of six championships between the Detroit Pistons and Shock, thousands of regular-season basketball games, hundreds of playoff games and some of the greatest moments in Detroit sports history.

It hosted some of the most notable concerts in the state, with performances by Michael Jackson, Sting, Madonna, Prince and dozens of others.

And as of Saturday, it is no more.

The Palace of Auburn Hills was imploded Saturday morning, ending a years-long shuttering process that began when the Pistons moved to downtown Detroit to Little Caesars Arena in 2017.

Spectators gathered across the street to watch the implosion, which occurred at 8 a.m. Explosives brought down what was left of the 32-year-old arena, which consisted of tall columns and a roof following months of demolition that started in March, in a matter of seconds.

The barren arena collapsed in a cloud of dust and drew cheers and reactions of shock from onlookers.

It's unclear what the site will be used for, but Livonia-based developer Schostak Brothers & Co., which purchased the land from Pistons owner Tom Gores last summer, is planning to redevelop the roughly 100-acre property as a mixed-use office park.

"We're very excited about this day," William Hall, project manager at Schostak Brothers & Co., said. "This is the implosion of the roof structure and columns today. Opens up the very exciting future development for surrounding property. This property is going to be redeveloped and bring hundreds of jobs. Very exciting opportunities for southeast Michigan as well as the city of Auburn Hills."

The Palace opened in August of 1988 to great fanfare. Then-Pistons owner Bill Davidson privately financed the $90 million arena, around $200 million in today's dollars.

Thanks to an ahead-of-its-time design that featured 180 luxury suites and more than $100 million in renovations through the years, the Palace was well-maintained through its final days. The Pistons played their last game there April 10, 2017, and the final event held at the venue was a Bob Seger concert Sept. 23, 2017.

 

The Pistons maintained their offices at the Palace and continued to use it as a practice facility until last October, when the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center opened in midtown.

Homrich, a demolition contractor, was tasked with the demolition and implosion. Scott Homrich, CEO of the company, estimated that it'll take a few months of cleanup before the process is completely finished.

"There's a lot of engineering that goes behind it," he said. "Basically, the explosives are helping gravity along the way. This one is pretty straightforward. You'll have the explosives start off on one side of the building and they'll be about a five-second delay from one side to the other. And then after that five seconds goes off there will be about a three-second pause, and then the charges will actually go off and start from one side to the other. There's been multiple checks of the different wiring and going through the process to make sure everything goes off good today."

Everything went according to plan, and he expressed optimism the new development on the site will serve the Auburn Hills community well.

"The development that's here is going to be incredible for the area," he said. "It's good to see abandoned things not sit abandoned. They've done a good job of using this through its useful life and moving it on and get something else in here that brings in good tax revenue, people's jobs, so on and so forth. They've done a good job of it."

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