DETROIT – In an interview with SportsBusiness Daily, Dan Gilbert boasted confidence in brining a Major League Soccer (MLS) team to the city of Detroit.
Gilbert repeated how he believes Ford Field, where the NFL's Detroit Lions play, would be the ideal stadium for a team.
And this time he went a step further with an interesting detail: The possibility of adding a retractable roof to the indoor stadium.
From the report:
“Detroit is the biggest city without a (MLS) team yet,” said Gilbert, but he added MLS wants, “at this point, a new stadium.” MLS franchises generally play in soccer-specific stadiums, but there are relatively new football and baseball venues in downtown Detroit, along with Little Caesars Arena, which opened last fall. Gilbert said, “We have three new stadiums within walking distance of each other, so the question we kept asking is whether we need to open a fourth for 18 (MLS) dates a year. It becomes an allocation of capital issue.” Gilbert said he and his execs have been meeting with officials from Ford Field to determine the costs and feasibility of adding a retractable roof there, in order to make it more soccer friendly. “If we get that worked out, I think we have a pretty good chance” of landing an MLS franchise for Detroit, Gilbert said.
Gilbert's original plan was to build in a new soccer stadium to lure the MLS to Detroit. However, now he and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores have teamed up with the Ford family to repurpose Ford Field for MLS. Despite being one of four finalists, Detroit missed out on the most recent bid for a team. Cincinnati will get an expansion team in 2019 while Miama and Nashville will gets teams in 2020. The league, however, has plans to expand from 26 to 28 teams. Detroit appears to be a lock for one of the upcoming expansion teams.
Last year, Pistons Vice Chairman Arn Tellem, who is coordinating the ownership group's communication with MLS officials, said the addition of the Ford family and the proposal to leverage existing resources by adapting Ford Field for MLS soccer would make a prospective MLS franchise in Detroit even more successful.
"Partnering with the Ford family bolsters our powerhouse group and provides a perfect stadium solution in the heart of Detroit's central business and sports and entertainment districts," Tellem said. "Over the last two years, we have invested significant time, effort and resources into our bid to bring MLS to Detroit. After careful study and analysis, we concluded that the downtown location of an MLS stadium is paramount to an MLS team's success. And no MLS stadium sits in a better downtown location than Ford Field. We also saw additional evidence that multi-use stadiums can be very successful in the right situation and we believe our new proposal is superior for the city and for MLS in every way."