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Volume 20 No. 42
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Party at the Palace: Pistons add more big single-event suites

Don Muret
The Palace of Auburn Hills has added two more party suites to meet the demand for single-event rentals at Detroit Pistons games.

The new party suites were created by consolidating four regular suites that were unsold on the arena’s south end into larger hospitality spaces, said Chris Quinn, vice president of business development and premium seating for Palace Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the arena and NBA team.

Both units are at the building’s stage end. One party suite is on the second suite level in the southeast corner. It has a side stage view and so can be sold for individual concerts, Quinn said. The other unit is behind the stage and goes dark for most concerts.

Rental fees start at $6,500 a game for the two new party suites at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Both party suites have 24 fixed seats and can host up to 40 people. For a Pistons game, rental fees start at $6,500, a sum that covers a $1,000 credit for food and drinks served by Levy Restaurants. The fees increase depending on the opponent and day of the week, Quinn said.

For this season, Palace Sports expects to generate $3 million in revenue from single-game suite rentals after producing $2.5 million last year from sales tied to Suite 241, the first of three party suite conversions, and other group spaces such as Club 300 at the top of the arena.

“We have a very large demand for suite rentals and are working smart in packaging games with concerts and [other] events,” said Quinn, entering his second season at the Palace after spending seven years at horse racing’s Santa Anita Park, near Los Angeles.

The cost to develop the two new party suites was about $50,000. The project effectively reduced the total number of Palace suites to 152, down 40 from when Tom Gores bought the team in June 2011. WaterMark, a Dallas firm, designed the party suite interiors.

Palace Sports also renovated 53 suites with new cooking technology, HD televisions, new hardwood flooring and new terrace seating for the 100 and 200 level skyboxes. Those upgrades were made from July to September.
Since Gores took over the team, Palace Sports has invested about $15 million renovating the arena, which turns 25 years old this fall.

> THE U: AECOM and the Ohio University Center for Sports Administration have renewed their partnership for three more years to have sports architects serve as guest lecturers.

The extension includes a new component, an endowed chair: Heather Lawrence-Benedict, an associate professor at Ohio, is the school’s first AECOM Professor of Sports Business, said Brett Fuller, AECOM’s director of sports business development.

AECOM has supported the Center for Sports Administration, a postgraduate curriculum spun off in 2005 from Ohio’s 48-year-old sports management program, by holding seminars about sports architecture and the economics tied to arenas and stadiums.

Since 1966, more than 1,300 students have earned master’s degrees in sports management from Ohio. About 10 percent of them hold athletic director and associate AD positions nationwide, including at Florida, Kentucky and Stanford, according to Ohio officials.

The partnership has paid off for AECOM as well. It has won jobs to design new sports venues at Buffalo, Marshall, Ole Miss and Towson, in part because of developing a “deeper relationship and level of trust” with Ohio alumni that hold leadership positions at those four schools, Fuller said.

> ON HIS FEET: Veteran sports designer Bill Crockett has joined 360 Architecture after spending the past 25 years at AECOM.

Crockett, a Bay Area resident, will work out of the firm’s San Francisco office, focusing on business development and any new work the firm secures in the western U.S.

He most recently worked as a design consultant on the Golden State Warriors’ San Francisco arena project. Crockett’s past projects include Barclays Center plus NBA arenas in Portland, Charlotte, San Antonio and Indianapolis.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @breakground.