Detroit Moving Forward with MLS Bid

Proposed Detroit MLS stadium

As they plan one last run at their preferred site, Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores will proceed with their MLS expansion bid for Detroit. 

Gilbert and Gores have pitched the concept for a stadium and adjacent development for a Gratiot site along Interstate 375 in downtown. Wayne County, however, revealed last week that it will move forward with plans to complete an unfinished jail at that site. A request for proposal to finish the jail will be issued on February 10, after which all other potential uses for the location will be off the table.

On Monday, it was announced that Gilbert will make one last attempt to purchase the site before the RFP is issued. More from The Detroit Free Press:

A statement attributed to Matt Cullen, head of Gilbert’s Rock Ventures, says the Gilbert team has been working with architectural firm HOK and construction firm Barton Malow over several months to develop an offer for the jail site. Wayne County Executive Warren Evans has said he needs the offer by Feb. 10.

“The timing requirements put forward by County Executive Evans are clear and fully understood by our team,” Cullen said in his statement. “We have now completed enough of our initial due diligence that will allow us to submit our offer in advance of the county executive’s deadline.”

Cullen said the offer would consist of “a robust proposal based upon specifications prepared for and information obtained from the county.”

Gilbert and Gores are prepared to submit their bid to the MLS, which is due on Tuesday. Gores has previously indicated that the pair could shift their efforts to another location if the site is pulled off the table, but most of the discussions thus far have centered around Gratiot.

Depending on whether their effort is enough to sway Wayne County to take a closer look at the stadium, the focus could shift elsewhere in the Detroit area. Though MLS commissioner Don Garber has offered some compliments about the Gratiot proposal, MLS executive vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche said that Detroit offers some others points of interest to the league. More from The Detroit Free Press:

Courtemanche said there were other discussions with the Detroit group during league meetings and the MLS SuperDraft this month in Los Angeles.

“Commissioner Garber met in person with Tom Gores,” Courtemanche  said. “It’s a regular dialogue and meetings with the potential expansion ownership groups and many political leaders.”

It’s unclear whether there have been recent discussions with Detroit political leaders.

While some markets have existing teams in the United Soccer League or North American Soccer League — which are one level below the MLS — Detroit doesn’t appear to be hindered by not having a second-division club.

“We believe the success of Major League Soccer is driven by visionary and dedicated owners,” Courtemanche said. “Clearly, the plan (Gores and Gilbert) initially presented would be a world-class stadium and complex. … Both have shown that, not only in sports but in their other businesses, they clearly have best-in-class management. Finally, we look at the market. The size of the market, the geographic location and, ultimately, is it a diverse, vibrant and soccer-savvy city? And we believe we have all that and more in the Detroit area.

Detroit was included in the initial list of 10 candidates announced by the league in December. Some cities that were omitted from that original slate, including Phoenix and Indianapolis, have since formed proposals that they will be taking to the league.

Images courtesy Rosetti.

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