City Council: Not so fast on tax incentives for Pistons to move downtown

A banner at the Red Wings new arena. Photo by Steve Neavling.
A banner at the Red Wings new arena. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Despite months of closed-door negotiations and a misleading announcement that the Pistons are moving to downtown Detroit, the deal between Mayor Mike Duggan and team owner Tom Gores is far from a slam dunk.

Pistons owner Tom Gores
Pistons owner Tom Gores.

Gores, who has a net worth of $3.3 billion and recently bought a $100 million mansion in Los Angeles, announced last month that he will move the Pistons to the new Red Wings arena if he receives $34.5 million in taxes from the Detroit Downtown Development Authority and a property tax exemption for a new practice facility.

For Gores to receive those tax incentives, the deal must first get approval from the Detroit City Council after what is expected to be a contentious public hearing in March. Many residents are opposed to more tax incentives for wealthy developers, especially after Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch received $250 million in captured taxes and failed to ensure his contractors hired enough Detroiters.

Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez.
Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez.

“I love the Pistons, would love to see them in Detroit,” Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez said on WDIV’s Flashpoint on Sunday. “But if we are going to be refinancing for an additional $34.5 million that has huge implications, we haven’t seen any documentation yet. We want to be able to review that thoroughly to make sure there are benefits there.”

It’s unclear whether Gores would still move the team to Detroit if he doesn’t receive the tax incentives, but he certainly proved he has the money in October after buying the most expensive house ever purchased in Los Angeles County history.

Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson.
Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson.

Councilman Scott Benson said he’d love to have all four professional sports teams in downtown Detroit, but he cautioned that the council must first review the deal and hear from the public.

“We know what the administration has already negotiated,” Benson said on Flashpoint. “What is the community going to negotiate?”

Benson added, “The devil is going to be in the details.”

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.