What’s the hottest professional sports league these days? No question: MLS. And with further MLS expansion slated for down the road, we’re seeing some renewed interest from investment groups. Today we’ll look at the latest entrant: Two sports heavyweights seeking a team and a new Detroit MLS stadium.
Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert went public with a proposal to bring an expansion MLS team to a new billion-dollar downtown stadium. Despite Gilbert being the Cavaliers owner, he’s actually a major player in Detroit, investing millions in downtown redevelopment and bringing part of his Quicken Loans workforce to the area.
The details on how a new stadium would be built by a city and/or county that’s still struggling are vague — even though Detroit is a trendy market, it’s still not totally rebounded, and there are many financial challenges among residents. The stadium is being positioned as a welcoming gateway to downtown Detroit, located on Gratiot near Interstate 375. But there’s one issue: Wayne County, which controls the land, has been building a new jail on the site (a process held up by financial issues) and county officials want to see that jail completed.
“I’ve always believed a sports franchise is a community asset with the power to unite and inspire people,” Gores said in a press statement. “I’m excited to partner with Dan and help in Detroit’s resurgence. Together we have all the tools we need to make a new team successful.”
“Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world with a passionate fan base and global reach,” Gilbert said in a press statement. “Bringing a team downtown will also further energize Detroit’s urban core, which is critical to the entire city’s overall health and vibrancy.
The plan would be for Gores’ Palace Sports and Entertainment to run the team, with Gilbert working on a development plan that would include the new stadium.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber was in Detroit to meet with state and local elected officials, as well as the potential ownership group. He expressed the usual enthusiasm for any expansion proposal as well as interest in a new stadium, per the Detroit News:
Garber said the meeting with city, state and county officials here is among nearly a couple dozen the league has had as it works to expand its team base.
“We are not going to make a commitment to come here unless we know we have an ownership group in place. We feel we have that part settled,” he said. “We certainly are not going to come to a market unless we know there’s a great, vibrant, passionate growing fan base. We feel comfortable about that. And, the third piece of the puzzle, which is an important one, is the stadium.”
Garber said the league is focused on Detroit and it’s been able to get things done when it’s what the public and private sectors and fans wanted.
“Be assured, we’re all going to be working hard to see if we can figure it out,” he said.
MLS expansion has been a hot topic in recent years, with four expansion teams — Minnesota, Atlanta, Los Angeles — on tap in the next two years. Where Detroit would fit into the next round of expansion (tentatively slated for 2020 and beyond) remains to be seen.
Images courtesy Rossetti.