Detroit MLS Facility Plans Taking Shape

Ford Field MLS

A renovated Ford Field is just one part of the Detroit MLS facility plans, which also include a training academy and development of youth soccer fields. 

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. As part of that plan, the Ford family–owners of the Lions–would be added to the MLS group, while Ford Field would receive an estimated $25 million in renovations to accommodate MLS. The stadium would receive new locker rooms, along with other improvements to make it more suited for soccer. (A previously discussed conversion from a fixed roof to a retractable roof will not be part of those plans, as was learned recently.)

That would represent just one part of the facility plans, however, as the MLS group is also planning a training academy and would develop new youth soccer fields in the city. The training academy is estimated at $50 million, and would be constructed at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Seven Mile Road. Meanwhile, an additional $20 million would be spent to develop soccer parks over a period of three years. More from Crain’s Detroit Business:

Local billionaire businessmen have promised Major League Soccer they will spend $95 million, including $50 million to build a soccer training and academy facility at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Seven Mile Road and an additional $20 million to create 100 youth soccer fields across the city in their bid to land an expansion team.

They would spend $25 million to retrofit Ford Field to accommodate a new MLS team, but won’t build a retractable roof because it’s not worth the hassle.

The details were laid out in a Sept. 24 letter from Quicken Loans Inc. Chairman and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Detroit Pistons Vice Chairman Arn Tellem to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Assistant Commissioner Mark Abbott. Tellem is the bid’s liaison to MLS and top aide to Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, who would co-own the team. Gores is copied on the letter along with Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford and Lions President Rod Wood, who are involved because of the bid’s use of Ford Field as a home stadium for the proposed expansion team.

It’s unclear if any of the $95 million promised in the letter would use any public funding. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is mentioned in the letter as backing the youth soccer field projects. Proposed are 12 soccer parks totaling more than 100 fields built over three years that would serve 150,000 kids, the letter says.

Building a MLS organization requires more than just a stadium, and these plans would address some of the other areas by including the training academy and development of fields that could help grow youth participation in soccer. However, there are still many uncertainties about the next round of MLS expansion, including which cities will emerge as top contenders and where Detroit will stand in that mix.

Detroit’s bid originally included plans for a new downtown soccer-specific stadium, but that concept was scrapped last fall and supplanted by the Ford Field proposal. Detroit was one of four finalists in the previous round of expansion, but was passed over in favor of Nashville and Cincinnati–two bids that included new soccer-specific stadiums.

Renderings courtesy Rossetti.

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August Publications