Detroit MLS Stadium Proposal to Pursued by Wayne County

Proposed Detroit MLS stadium

The proposal for a Detroit MLS stadium has received a boost, as Wayne County‘s executive announced that his administration is pursuing an agreement relating to the facility. 

Led by Tom Gores and Dan Gilbert, Detroit’s MLS expansion bid includes a proposal for a new stadium and surrounding development in the city’s downtown, on Gratiot Avenue near Interstate 375 . The location that is being eyed for the project is currently occupied by an unfinished jail, prompting Gilbert’s Rock Ventures to make an offer to the county. Under the terms of that agreement, the county would receive a new penitentiary as part of a criminal complex near Interstate 75, clearing the way for the downtown location to be used for a 23,000-seat stadium and other amenities.

In an announcement issued on Monday, Wayne County executive Warren Evans said that he is instructing his team to pursue an agreement with Rock Ventures. No agreement has been finalized, and an alternative proposal to finish the jail at the downtown site remains an option, but Evans cited some of the advantages Rock Ventures’ plan has to offer. More from The Detroit News:

“While both proposals remain options, I’ve directed my team to dedicate their time and resources toward attempting to reach a contract with Rock Ventures,” Evans said in a release. “The Rock Ventures proposal has more upside, less risk and a smaller financial gap than Walsh Construction’s proposal.”


To make room for a soccer development in Greektown, Rock Ventures has proposed building a criminal justice complex near I-75 and Warren for the county with a 2,280-bed jail that would cost at least $520.3 million. The county would be on the hook for $380 million, plus the cost of acquiring the land from the city. Rock Ventures vowed to cover the risk for all cost overruns.

In exchange for the complex, Rock Ventures wants to use the unfinished jail site in Greektown for the mixed-use development, soccer stadium and three high-rise buildings. That development could have more than a $2.4 billion economic impact, the company said.

“On behalf of Rock Ventures, I’d like to thank Warren Evans and his dedicated team for their hard work throughout this process and their confidence in us moving forward together,” Rock Ventures Principal Matt Cullen said in a statement Monday.

Evans will not issue a formal recommendation to Wayne County commissioners until his administration reaches an agreement with Rock Ventures, and the county will have 120 days from June 28 to begin discussions about the alternate plan if a contract is not finalized. The county is also awaiting word from the IRS over whether existing jail bonds can be used for a project at the location proposed by Rock Ventures, as opposed to the downtown site.

What happens from here could have some interesting implications on the MLS expansion process. As has been noted in our expansion odds–including the rankings for July–the combination of Gilbert and Gores could be the strongest ownership group involved in the process, and both would come to MLS with plenty of experience in the NBA (Gilbert owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Gores owns the Detroit Pistons), Other factors will be considered as MLS evaluates proposals, but stadium site is one major question about the Detroit MLS pursuit that could be addressed.

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