Tom Gores, chairman and CEO of Platinum Equity and owner of the Detroit Pistons, today announced plans to build a new $20 million community center in Rouge Park on the city’s west side.
The announcement comes as the first in a series of initiatives Gores envisions for the Tom Gores Family Foundation.
Gores will work with the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department and residents to develop a new 25,000-square-foot, multi-use facility adjacent to Brennan Pool. The plan also will renovate the existing pool and locker room facilities and bring a diverse range of year-round programming to the neighborhood.
The project, located south of Plymouth Road and east of West Outer Drive, is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2024.
“The facility itself will be the best of its kind and provide residents with a safe space to learn, play, and grow,” says Gores. “But more than just a building, we will create a hub that brings together people from the neighborhood and throughout the city who want to make a difference in this community.”
Today’s announcement is the first in an initiative Gores launched last summer with the Pistons organization to accelerate the impact of its work in the social justice arena.
“Before the season began, we sat down with employees across the organization, including our players and both business and basketball operations staff, to discuss meaningful areas where we can help effect social change,” Gores says.
An internal team of executives from the club’s community relations, legal, and operations departments worked with the players over several months to identify several key areas of focus — education, mentorship, vocational services, life skills, financial literacy, emotional intelligence for youth, and food insecurity.
“It was an exciting opportunity to bring our thoughts to the table and not hold back,” says Jerami Grant, a veteran Pistons forward. “We have a lot of life experience dealing with issues of social justice and we have a lot of ideas about how to drive change.”
That process, which included field trips to visit different facilities and community organizations in Detroit, led to the community center as a way to address multiple priorities.
“We solicited ideas from everyone in the organization — players, coaches, executives, salespeople, (and) support staff. That makes this a powerful effort,” says Dwayne Casey, head coach of the Pistons. “This is incredibly important for our community and Tom has made it an integral area of focus, putting money, resources, and infrastructure behind the initiative to make a lasting difference.”
Pistons center Isaiah Stewart says community centers played an important role when he was young.
“For me growing up, community centers provided a safe space because after school I always had something to do,” says Stewart. “That led me to boxing, soccer, and eventually getting into basketball, but I was always busy. They can also give adults who have to work peace of mind knowing their kids are in a safe environment, learning, getting better, or just having fun.”
City officials say the Cody-Rouge community suffers from a lack of indoor recreation facilities and is the only current district in the city without an indoor community center. The new facility will serve a population that includes more than 24,000 residents within a 1.5-mile radius.
“When you look at a map of community center locations throughout the city of Detroit, we have known for a long time that there was a big hole in the Cody-Rouge neighborhood,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
“Now, thanks to Tom Gores and the Detroit Pistons, that hole is being filled and the residents of Cody-Rouge will have a new first-class indoor facility providing a wide-range of activity and engagement space. The new facility and Brennan Pool enhancements will make this community center one of the finest in Detroit and the region.”
City officials and Pistons representatives will host community meetings with District 7 residents to solicit neighborhood feedback on amenities and programming they would like to see incorporated into the new center.
Gores says in addition to funding construction, his organization will leverage its relationships and intellectual capital to maximize impact.
“We will bring the full weight of our resources — our business and basketball operations teams, players, corporate and community partners, and anyone else who wants to join the cause. We are more impactful when we work together,” he says.
A second phase of the plan will create an enclosed structure around one of the two Olympic-size pools located at the Brennan site, creating year-round access to swimming lessons and water safety classes. The city said this currently unmet need is critical for Detroiters of all ages. Completion for this second phase of the project has not been set.
The Rouge Park project represents the latest in a series of recreation and community spaces Gores has funded in districts throughout the city.
In 2019, the Pistons organization rebuilt the outdoor basketball courts in Rouge Park as part of a six-year commitment to rehabilitate 60 courts by 2024. By the end of this summer, 52 courts in 37 parks will have been completed.
In turn, Gores helped fund renovations and ongoing programming at the SAY Detroit Play Center at Lipke Park on the city’s east side.