Detroit — It’s been more than two years since Wayne State University and the Pistons announced their partnership on a new arena that will house the men’s and women’s college basketball teams and the Pistons’ G League franchise, the Motor City Cruise.
Construction on the arena has been ongoing, and as it enters its final stages ahead of its opening this fall, the anticipation is ramping up for a state-of-the-art arena that will seat up to 3,000 fans and be a significant upgrade to the university’s athletic campus. Additionally, it’ll help the Pistons expand their footprint and have their G League team about a mile from their practice facility in midtown — a vast difference from Grand Rapids, where their team had been located.
The Detroit News had an opportunity to tour the new facility, which is located near the corner of Warren and Trumbull. Construction will wrap up in the coming weeks, well ahead of Wayne State’s exhibition opener against Michigan on Nov. 5 and the Cruise’s debut soon afterwards.
Beyond the main entrance and atrium entering the court, there will be LED lights with different themes for each team and a tribute to Motown. The concourse area will have concessions and rival many of the other Division II and G League facilities around the country.
“I believe from the experiences I’ve had in G League arenas, this will be hands down the best G league arena in the NBA,” Cruise team president and general manager Rob Murphy told The News. “I think the seating is set up great and it gives the fieldhouse feel when you walk in, and it’s small and intimate and everybody will be on top of you.
“Any time you can get a small, intimate feel, that brings a lot of energy and a lot of excitement from a fan base, and you get all the bells and whistles.”
The court will have the majority of the seating on three sides and will feature additional floor seating for Cruise games. Wayne State games will have a specific student section that also will seat the pep band on the east end of the arena. The main video scoreboard will be on a wall at the far end of the court and there will be two alternate scoreboards.
Wayne State will have a parquet-style floor for its games, featuring the familiar green and gold color scheme. For Cruise games, an additional court will be overlaid with their red, white and blue theme and branding.
The cost of the 70,000-square-foot facility is about $25 million, which was financed by Wayne State, which will sell naming rights to the facility. The Cruise will have a lease agreement to play in the facility.
The arena will feature five locker rooms: the main Cruise locker room, one each for Wayne State’s men’s and women’s teams, and one each for visiting G League and college teams. It’s a major improvement for Wayne State, a Division II program, and the other arena amenities will make for an enhanced fan experience.
“Our locker room sizes are great, along with all the amenities in the locker rooms. The donor suite, looking from up top, is a place where we can host partners, season-ticketholders and our floor-seat holders,” Murphy said. “It’s exciting with all the amenities that they’ve put into this new arena. I think it’ll help us too because it’s so close to our practice facility and we are going to practice here and being able to practice during the day and play a game at night.”
Murphy added that season-ticket sales are going well and there are only a few floor seats remaining for Cruise games. The G League schedule hasn’t been finalized but should be available in September.
The partnership between the Cruise and Wayne State is unique in the G League and having both programs in the same facility will allow the opportunity for students to get discounts on Cruise tickets, and to see some Pistons players who are playing for the Cruise for a fraction of the cost of a Pistons ticket.
This season, that could include two-way players Luka Garza — who was the national player of the year as a senior at Iowa — and Chris Smith, along with some other Pistons who get more exposure and playing time with the Cruise.
“Everybody’s excited about Luka Garza and he’ll spend time in the G League,” Murphy said. “Whether it’s Chris Smith, (former Michigan star) Isaiah Livers, Saben Lee, and a host of others who will spend some time in the G League and continue to get better and better, we can prepare them to be really good players for the parent team.”
The Cruise announced that they will have open tryouts on Sept. 15 with the potential to be invited to the team’s training camp in October. They hired their first head coach, DJ Bakker, on Tuesday as well.