Whalers

Detroit Whalers

Arena Name: The Palace of Auburn Hills
Capacity: 22,076
Built: 1988
Last Game: 1996
Closed: 2017
Address: 4 Championship Drive, Auburn Hills, MI, 48326
Ice Surface Size: Regulation

OHL

 The Palace of Auburn Hills

Palace of Auburn Hills

 What Was the Arena Like?

The Palace of Auburn Hills was the prototype new NHL/NBA arena upon which virtually all others were based in the 1990's arena construction boom. Opened in 1988, the arena's two main design revolutions were that it was the first arena to move suite level down from the rafters to prime real estate in the lower bowl, and it was the first building to have stacked oval concourses segregating upper and lower decks. The Palace was only nine years newer than Joe Louis Arena, but to attend a Red Wings and a Pistons game in the last year both were open, the Red Wings game was like going back in time, whereas the Palace could still have been a new rink.

The Palace's great undoing, though, was its location. Auburn Hills is located a good thirty miles north of downtown Detroit, and the Pistons during their residency had few season ticket holders from downtown or downriver or the western parts of Detroit, as getting there was too much of a hassle. When Olympia Sports & Entertainment invited the Pistons to move downtown with them in the new Little Caesars Arena, it was a no-brainer.

The arena was a huge building from the outside and looked even bigger thanks to being surrounded by acres of parking lots, and it was coloured 1980's pink with teal-blue accents. Inside, there was a clean, spacious lobby leading into the arena concourse. There were two decks ringing the ice and a beautiful modern scoreboard.

The best thing about the Palace was the "Hall of Fame" - there was a huge museum that contained all kinds of Pistons memorabilia from over the years, plus relics and souvenirs from almost every concert that was ever held there. There were smashed guitars, drum heads, photos, autographs, and costumes, just like at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and it took at least a good half-hour to see it all properly.

As a home to the OHL, the Palace of Auburn Hills mostly sat empty for Whalers games. They played occasional games there in 1995-96, but otherwise the OHL never was a full-time resident, and in fact the Palace didn't have permanent ice in it after the 2001 dissolution of the Detroit Vipers. My own personal experience with the Palace was limited to one U2 concert in May 2001 - I'm glad I got to see the interior of the building, and it's a shame it was constructed where it was. When the Palace is demolished in 2020, the prototypical modern arena will be gone forever.

 Inside The Palace of Auburn Hills

Palace of Auburn Hills

 What's the Arena Used for Today?
The Palace of Auburn Hills closed in 2017 and is currently undergoing demolition. An implosion is planned for spring 2020 which will level the building. The land on which the Palace sits, including its parking lot, is too valuable to leave as an arena, and more than 20 light industrial and commercial buildings will eventually occupy the land.

 Feedback
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Last Revised: December 4, 2019