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The Palace of Auburn Hills

Aug 21, 2007
Since its opening in 1988, The Palace of Auburn Hills, or simply The Palace, is a sports and entertainment venue in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It's the home of the Detroit Pistons of the NBA; since 1998 it also hosts the Detroit Shock of the WNBA. It was also the home of the now-defunct Detroit Vipers of the IHL (1994 - 2001), Detroit Safari of the CISL (1994 - 1997), and the Detroit Fury of the AFL (2001 - 2004). It also hosts numerous concerts and other special events that are within a limo or luxury sedan ride of most Detroit suburban locations.

Before the Palace opened, the Pistons had lacked a suitable home venue. From 1957 to 1978, the team competed in Detroit's Olympia Stadium and Cobo Arena, both considered undersized for NBA purposes. In 1978, owner Bill Davidson elected not to share the new Joe Louis Arena with the Detroit Red Wings, and instead chose to relocate the team to the Pontiac Silverdome, a venue constructed for football, where it remained for the next decade. While the Silverdome could accommodate massive crowds, it offered substandard sight lines for basketball viewing. A group led by Davidson built the Palace for the relatively low cost of $70 million, using entirely private funding. Davidson has held a controlling interest in the arena since its construction.

The arena opened in time for the Pistons' first NBA championship season, in 1988-89. Since then, when one of the Palace's basketball occupants has won a championship, the number on its address has changed. Its current address is 5 Championship Drive, reflecting the Pistons' three NBA titles and the Detroit Shock's two titles (the Detroit Vipers' 1997 Turner Cup Championship has not been officially recognized in the arena's address). The original address was 3777 Lapeer Road.

On November 19, 2004, the Palace was the site of one of the most notorious brawls in professional sports history, involving members of the Pistons, the Indiana Pacers, and fans. By some, it has come to be called the Malice at the Palace.

The Palace of Auburn Hills is presently the second-largest arena in the NBA, which helped the Pistons to record the league's highest home attendance from 2002-2006. In the 2006-07 season, the Pistons narrowly finished second to the Chicago Bulls, who play in the larger United Center.

The Palace's large seating capacity (22,076 for basketball; up to 23,000 for end-stage concerts and 24,276 for center-stage concerts) and suburban location have also made it very popular for large concerts and, to a slightly lesser degree, major boxing matches. The basketball capacity was increased from 21,454 to 22,076 in the summer of 1997.

The Palace was built with 180 luxury suites, considered an exorbitant number when it opened, but it has consistently managed to lease virtually all of them. In December 2005, the Palace added five underground luxury suites, each 450 square feet and renting for $450,000 per year. Eight more luxury suites, located below arena level, were opened in February 2006. They range from 800-1,200 square feet and rent for $350,000 annually.
The architectural design of the Palace, including its multiple tiers of luxury suites, has been used as the basis for many other professional sports arenas in North America since its construction. One trend that the arena has not partaken in is that of selling its naming rights to a sponsor; it is one of five NBA arenas that has not done so, and just one of eight basketball arenas owned by their respective NBA franchise.
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