FLINT — The Palace of Auburn Hills may be gone, but a part of the former home of the Detroit Pistons will live on in a popular Flint arena.
The Dort Financial Credit Union Event Center is receiving a $2 million makeover which is expected to be finished in January, just in time for the start of the Flint Firebird’s season in February.
Jeremy Torrey, general manager of the center and president of the Firebirds hockey organization, said with the completion of this renovation work, which started right after Thanksgiving, there won’t be a portion of the 51-year-old facility that hasn’t received a facelift.
“It’s been six years since the owner (Rolf Nilsen) purchased the facility and almost every square foot of the building has seen an upgrade,” said Torrey. “The lighting in more energy efficient, there’s been improvements to the rink with the glass and spectator protection. Even the parking lot lights have been converted to LED.”
Prior to this renovation work, Torrey said Nilsen has spent about $5 million of renovations to the event center.
Work crews are installing almost 4,000 seats removed from The Palace before it’s demolition last summer. Torrey said the Palace donated the seats and the Dort Financial crews had to remove them from the Palace, bring them to Flint and reinstall them here.
“This all started week of Thanksgiving, we were waiting on word when we were getting the seats. We’ve been inquiring about it for 2 ½ years,” he said. “We got some of the newer seats that were only used for about two seasons – the 2016-2017 season. It was a great opportunity.”
Torrey said Nilsen continues his commitment to the community, the team and the fans with this project.
To raise money for the project, the Dort Financial Credit Union Event Center is selling its old seats with prices starting at $25. Anyone interested in owning a piece of the iconic Flint arena can do so by contacting Torrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Torrey said they also acquired some of the LED signage from the Palace, purchasing it through a third party which bought and removed the remaining content from the Palace before its demolition.
The LED ribbons that circled The Palace are now on the walls all the way around the lobby, around the main arena from faceoff circle to faceoff circle and around the upper tier. These LED signs are used to display advertising and other messages.
In all, said Torrey, there are 1,500 linear feet, or a quarter mile, of LED ribbons around the event center. Other aspects of the project include new concession stands, locker rooms, a video scoreboard, a press box and new lighting.
While the team hasn’t been back to the arena since the end of their last season, Torrey said a player and his father stopped in the see the work recently while they were passing through Flint.
“They were blown away,” he said.
Torrey said work will wrap up in early January in time for the start of the Firebird’s training camp. However, news came from the Ontario Hockey League Dec. 23 that the league would shut down Dec. 26 due to Ontario COVID-19 restrictions.
This means training camps scheduled to begin in mid-January, with players reporting to their teams in early January, and games scheduled to commence Feb. 4, will be delayed until further notice.