Detroit MLS Expansion Bid Will Continue to Include Ford Field

Ford Field MLS

Rather than revive plans for a new soccer-specific stadium, the Detroit MLS expansion bid will continue to call for the team to play at Ford Field

Detroit was one of four finalists–along with Cincinnati, Nashville, and Sacramento–considered by MLS in December for two expansion slots. Nashville was selected that month, with the league holding off on its next decision until May, when it announced approval of FC Cincinnati’s bid.

The bid from Detroit had some advantages, including ownership led by Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores–owners the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons, respectively. However, last fall it was announced that plans to build a soccer-specific stadium at the site of an unfinished jail in downtown Detroit would be scrapped in favor of using the existing Ford Field, home to the NFL’s Lions. After the league selected Cincinnati, MLS commissioner Don Garber indicated that Detroit’s bid was set back by the Ford Field proposal.

As it proceeds into the next round of expansion, Detroit will continue to pitch Ford Field as the club’s home venue. According to Arn Tellem–vice chairman of the Pistons and group liaison with MLS–Ford Field’s location in downtown Detroit is a major advantage, and Tellem argued that Detroit does not need another professional sports venue in its downtown. More from The Detroit Free Press:

“There’s no better stadium location than Ford Field,” Detroit Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem told the Free Press on Thursday afternoon. “There’s no better stadium location than Ford Field. It’s in the heart of downtown Detroit.

“With everything happening in Detroit, we believe as far as development, young people moving back into the city and the sports district that’s been created downtown — which is unique to any city in America — that Ford Field is the perfect location.”

Tellem represents the group — which includes Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, Quicken Loans founder and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and the Ford family, which owns the current Ford Field resident, the Detroit Lions.

“We also feel strongly it would be irresponsible to not have it at Ford Field,” Tellem said. “To build another stadium when you have three great facilities in this city already in Ford Field, Comerica Park and Little Caesars Arena, it would be irresponsible to build another one. It would be just the wrong use of land in the city when it could be used for housing, for offices or multi-purpose development. The city doesn’t want that.”

The proposal called for Ford Field to be renovated to accommodate MLS, while the wealthy Ford family–owner of the Lions–would be added to the club’s ownership. In losing out to Cincinnati and Nashville, Detroit’s bid was defeated in the last round of expansion by groups that included plans to construct new soccer-specific venues. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and CenturyLink Field in Seattle are examples of where teams are thriving in dual use NFL/MLS venues, but clearly the soccer-specific stadium model from the competing expansion bids was more appealing to MLS.

What happens in the next round of MLS expansion remains to be seen. Detroit and Sacramento are still options at this point, with the latter seeking a major investor to boost its chances. There is also the opportunity for other candidates–including options such as Phoenix and San Diego–to make strides over the coming months. We took a closer look at the next round of MLS expansion in a feature last week.

Renderings courtesy Rossetti.

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