Ford Field Retractable Roof Proposal Being Studied

Ford Field MLS

The idea of adding a retractable roof to Ford Field for MLS continues to be studied, as the Detroit Lions and an MLS expansion group are exploring the proposal. 

Detroit’s MLS expansion bid, backed by Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores, proposes that the club play at Ford Field, the downtown home of the NFL’s Lions. The stadium has been a fixed-roof facility since opening in 2002, but a plan is being floated to convert it into a retractable-roof venue.

Switching to a retractable roof could allow for increased flexibility, and perhaps the installation of a natural grass field (one addition that could be enticing to MLS). However, a potential Ford Field retractable roof will have implications on multiple aspects of the facility and requires some study. In a recent radio interview, Lions president Rod Wood indicated that the idea is still being explored. More from The Detroit News:

“It’s never been done, to add a retractable roof to a domed stadium,” Wood said during an interview on WJR-AM, which holds the broadcasting rights to the team’s games.

“All of the retractable roofs in the country have either been part of the original construction or have been added to an open-air stadium; U.S. Open, Wimbledon.

“Those have less complications, because of the weather issues. They’ve been open and experienced it.”

Wood has said the impact of exposing the interior of the closed space at Ford Field is something that must be understood.

Adding a retractable roof would obviously have cost implications, and it remains to be seen how it would affect the inner workings of a stadium that is designed to be completely indoors. Funding may also have to be considered for other areas, especially if natural grass is added and a stronger drainage system is needed as a result.

Still, the retractable roof proposal remains an intriguing prospect as Detroit tries to bolster Ford Field as a viable MLS home after losing out to Nashville and Cincinnati–two bids that included new soccer-specific stadiums–in the last round of expansion. Soccer-specific stadiums have been growing trend in MLS, but Detroit seems to be casting itself as a potential success story in the mold of Atlanta and Seattle, two cities where teams are thriving in shared NFL/MLS venues. Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in particular would seem to be a model for Detroit, as the retractable-roof facility opened last year and has been a major factor in Atlanta United FC’s success in setting attendance records. The proposal for Detroit also calls for Ford family, owners of the Lions, to join the MLS group.

Renderings courtesy Rossetti.

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