Pistons offer special treat for team sponsors
SOUTH BEND, Ind, Sep 13, 2010 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) -- From takeoff to touchdown, the flight would take a mere 33 minutes. But to the 64 passengers who boarded the sleek and sophisticated new Roundball One, the inaugural voyage of the Pistons' new team jet would exceed all expectations.
Their destination: University of Notre Dame for Saturday's showdown against Michigan.
"Seeing a game at Notre Dame Stadium_well, I can check that off my bucket list now," said Steve Bright, 61, of West Bloomfield.
The Pistons treated some of their corporate partners and sponsors, and other guests, to the ultimate college game-day getaway_transportation included.
And what a ride.
Last December, the Detroit Free Press received an inside look at the team's new plane, a McDonnell Douglas MD83, that's customized right down to the belt buckles: Each is engraved with the Pistons' logo.
The plane had been scheduled to replace their former aircraft_a McDonnell Douglas DC930, which they flew in for 12 seasons _ last season but the aircraft's official unveiling was delayed until this week.
"Because everything in the plane is custom, last-minute changes were needed to take care of the configurations required by the FAA," said John O'Reilly, Pistons executive vice president and chief financial officer . "Since we were this late into the season, the decision was made to wait (until this season) so we can get everything done right." The project, which had been approved by late Pistons owner Bill Davidson, cost an estimated $7 million. It also leaves the team in a unique situation in the NBA.
"We're probably the only team with two planes," said O'Reilly, adding their other plane is for sale.
Both planes are currently kept at a hangar owned by Guardian Industries Corp. at Detroit Metro.
The players will have to wait a few weeks to get their first glimpse of new Roundball One; they'll take it for the first time when they travel to Miami for their Oct. 5 preseason game against the Heat.
The Pistons' first team plane was a British Aircraft Corp.-built BAC 111, which they flew from 1987- 98. The Pistons' current reconditioned jet was built by Shanghai Aviation Industrial Co. in 1988, and was bought by the team from Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit Airlines in 2007.
It originally sat 150, but the cabin has been comfortably and luxuriously transformed into what reminded passenger Pancho Hall, 50, of Northville, Mich., who was on Saturday's flight, of a "nice restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere." The seating is designed into tables of four, with aisles roomy enough for two people to pass. Each tan leather seat is custom-built and there's enough legroom for the lankiest of players to stretch out.
The cabin_transformed into four sections_has two XM satellite radios, 16 flat-screen monitors, four PlayStation 3 video consoles, four CD players and four air-to-land telephones.
O'Reilly said the idea to treat sponsors on a trip_and there's another one planned_was the brainchild of Pistons Executive Vice President Dan Hauser and Shawn Kuzmin, senior VP, ticket sales and service.
"It's always fun to be a guest of the Pistons," said Bob McDonald, president and owner of Modernistic Cleaning. "Nobody has ever taken care of their vendors or people who do business better than the Pistons." On the bus ride to Notre Dame, Hauser even played tour guide, telling the group from the front of the bus as rain poured outside: "Welcome to sunny South Bend. The good news is, we have ponchos for everybody." ___ (c) 2010, Detroit Free Press.
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