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Construction of New Wayne State Arena Approved

Wayne State Arena rendering

University board of governors approved construction of a new Wayne State arena Wednesday, with a Detroit Pistons‘ G League team to join college basketball at the venue.

Wayne State is now set to move forward with the construction of a new $25 million arena on its athletic campus in Detroit, near the corner of Warren and Trumbull avenues. The 70,000 square-foot venue will feature a seating capacity for approximately 3,000 fans, and is scheduled to open in time for the 2021-22 basketball season. The facility will be used by Wayne State’s men’s and women’s programs, along with a Pistons’ affiliate in the NBA Gatorade League.

“We are excited about the opportunities that will be created for our student-athletes and our greater student body with the addition of this new venue and a great partnership with the Detroit Pistons,” WSU President, M. Roy Wilson said in a press statement.  “One of the overlooked advantages of attending Wayne State is the opportunity to get practical experience with great businesses in our community – like the Detroit Pistons.  With this new partnership, the opportunities will prove even richer.”

One key detail that remains unresolved is just how the Pistons will place a G League team in the arena. Currently the organization is affiliated with but does not own the G League’s Grand Rapids Drive, a team controlled by an ownership group led by Steve Jbara.

The current affiliation agreement between the Pistons and Drive runs through the 2020-21 season, and the Drive made it clear in a statement on Wednesday that they want to remain in Grand Rapids and are not seeking a move to Detroit. For their part, the Pistons are not ready to confirm whether it will be the Drive or a G League expansion team that plays in the new Wayne State arena. More from The Detroit News:

“We are deeply committed to our fans and love being part of the sports landscape in the community that we’ve called home since 2014,” the Drive said in a team statement. “This team has been community-built and supported for five seasons, and we are looking forward to continuing the growth of the franchise here in West Michigan.

“We have no plans on relocating to Detroit but (will) continue to have great communication and a positive relationship with the Pistons organization. We are solely focused on our sixth season this upcoming fall, in partnership with the Detroit Pistons and the NBA.”

However, Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem said the Drive’s fate has yet to be decided.

“We’re in discussions right now and I don’t know,” Tellem said. “We have a commitment that we can get an expansion team, and it may be an expansion team. We’ll see how our discussions are resolved as we talk with the NBA and the Grand Rapids team.

For the Pistons, the Wayne State arena–which will only be about two miles from Little Caesars Arena–provides another opportunity to concentrate their operations within Detroit. The NBA team shifted from their long-time suburban arena–The Palace of Auburn Hills–to the then brand-new Little Caesars Arena in 2017, opening the facility with the NHL’s Red Wings. The organization will also soon finish construction on a new practice facility in Detroit.

The partnership between the Pistons and Wayne State is expected to expand beyond the G League team. Per a press release from Wayne State, the NBA organization plans “to work with the university to create academic programming and internship opportunities for Wayne State students in areas such as sports marketing, physical therapy, rehabilitation and sports and entertainment business operations.”

“The fans of Wayne State basketball have waited a long time for this announcement and its promise for the university, our students, and our basketball programs,” Rob Fournier, Wayne State University Director of Athletics said in a press statement.  “Our partnership with the Pistons will be transformational — from our shared association, to the means to advance more opportunities in the Matthaei Building for our campus, to creating a basketball setting that underscores a mutual objective to make Detroit a basketball destination.”

Rendering courtesy Wayne State Warriors.

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