DETROIT – After years of talking about the possibility of bring Major League Soccer to Detroit, we now have a lot of action.
Detroit real estate czar and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Pistons owner Tom Gores are banding together to make it happen.
The commissioner of the league will be in Detroit Wednesday for a meeting with the two, and a press conference is expected later Wednesday afternoon.
The two exchanged cryptic tweets Tuesday, saying they're "kicking around" some ideas and that they could be "rooting for the same team" soon.
The tweets were confirmed with a joint press release announcing the partnership.
"I've always believed a sports franchise is a community asset with the power to unite and inspire people," Gores said. "I'm excited to partner with Dan and help in Detroit's resurgence. Together we have all the tools we need to make a new team successful."
"Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world with a passionate fan base and global reach," Gilbert said. "Bringing a team downtown will also further energize Detroit's urban core, which is critical to the entire city’s overall health and vibrancy."
The potential ownership group will meet with MLS this week to discuss their expansion plan, including the constriction of a stadium in downtown Detroit.
“Detroit is rising and we know firsthand the power of sports to lift a community and drive a civic renaissance. We are very excited about the prospect of bringing Major League Soccer to Detroit and building an ownership group that represents a cross-section of investors.”
Major League Soccer Commissioner Dan Garber has spoken recently about expansion of the league.
He named cities the league is targeting, in priority order: Detroit, San Diego, San Antonio, Austin, Texas, and Cincinnati.
Is a fifth professional sports franchise sustainable here? Soccer fans say, "Yes."
Tim Young, who has three children playing on soccer teams, said it would be a family destination.
"They grew up playing soccer from age 6 to age 19 and the only soccer they get to see is a once in a while college game or a pro game from Europe," Young said.
So the question is where to put a 20,000-seat soccer stadium. Gilbert tried to come up with a deal to buy the failed Wayne County jail site on the corner of St. Antoine and Gratiot -- it went nowhere. Another developer said he saw a Major League Soccer stadium on the site but couldn’t get traction either.
The official word Tuesday night from Wayne County is the county has no plans to sell the parcel.
"We don't comment on rumors, speculation and things said by unnamed sources, but our plan to finish the jail on Gratiot has not changed," said James Canning, communications director for Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.
The league, which started play in 1996, currently has 20 teams, with Atlanta due to join in 2017 and a second Los Angeles team the following the year. St. Paul, Minnesota, also has been awarded a team and could open in 2017 with a new stadium in the works, and the league hopes David Beckham's tentative Miami team could start play in 2018.
Gilbert's Cleveland Cavaliers eliminated Gores' Detroit Pistons this week in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Detroit City FC, Detroit's National Premier Soccer League team, released a statement on the possibility of an MLS team in Detroit:
"Detroit City FC has had initial contact with the interested parties regarding the possibility of Major League Soccer in Detroit, and we look forward to carrying on more conversations with those groups as the soccer scene evolves."
"We have always believed that for soccer to live up to its full potential in southeast Michigan, a team must be connected to the community and focused on soccer supporter culture. The founding of a professional team is a golden opportunity, but in an already crowded market, success is never guaranteed."
Hey @TomGores, you know what's great about sports? One moment you're rivals & the next day, you can be rooting for the same team…— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) April 26, 2016