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Ford Field agrees to house a potential soccer team in Detroit’s MLS bid

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Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Next month, Major League Soccer will decide on cities for new MLS franchises. Detroit could be one of those cities. For a year and a half, Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert have pitched the proposal for a new soccer stadium built at the failed jail site at Gratiot and 375. Now we’ve learned that the proposal has a supplement stating that Ford Field would host an MLS team.

In a statement, Detroit Pistons Vice Chairman Arn Tellem says,

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,” said Mr. Tellem. “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.

Ford Field recently underwent a $100 million renovation. A press release states the advantages of the field hosting an MLS team:

  • Ford Field’s seating pitch produces a fan sightline slope of 17 degrees in the lower level—among the best for current MLS multi-use stadiums
  • Ford Field’s location inside the central business district and downtown setting bolsters the game-day experience with walkable entertainment and gathering spaces
  • Different seating configurations can support crowd sizes ranging from 26,000 to 64,000
  • Soccer-specific design will maximize usage of premium suite inventory and high-visibility sponsorship activation
  • Ford Field has hosted four USA Soccer international matches (2008, 2011, 2012, 2015)

Of course, this would mean that we wouldn’t have an all new stadium built downtown. Rock Ventures Principal Matt Cullen says,

From the time we started working on the Gratiot site, we have always been focused on the importance of a great mixed-use development at the gateway to downtown Detroit, soccer was just a potential component of our vision,” said Mr. Cullen. “But once we better understood Ford Field’s unique attributes, including the recent renovations and a bowl design that is perfectly suited for soccer, we decided to change course. We have made clear to the County that we are still fully committed to moving forward with our proposal to build out a new criminal justice complex on Warren and I-75. We are also fully committed to a mixed-use development on the Gratiot site that will be an economic driver for our community.

We should know the fate of a potential Detroit MLS team and the fail jail site by the end of the year.