Ford family opens up Ford field to Gores-Gilbert MLS bid

The Gores-Gilbert bid to bring MLS to Detroit is getting support from the owners of the Detroit Lions and future professional soccer games could be played at Ford Field.

Detroit Pistons Owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert announced on Thursday that their plans to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Detroit are getting the support fromt he Ford and Detroit Lions. The group submitted a plan for an MLS franchise that would play games at Ford Field.

The plan detailed that Ford Field would be group's preferred stadium site in Downtown Detroit.

The MLS released a statement saying it was premature to comment on the new plans but "MLS continues to prioritize soccer-specific stadiums as a criteria for the selection of MLS expansion markets."

As for the failed jail project on Gratiot where it was rumored a new stadium would be built, they say they're committed to building a mixed-use development that will be "an economic driver for our community."

Officials say they are committed to moving forward with their proposal to build a new criminal justice complex on Warren and I-75.

Detroit 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," said 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."

In the past few years, Ford Field has undergone $100 million in renovations and grow soccer locally benefit the community by utilizing the city's existing resources, the group said. 

"The Lions and Ford Field have had active and ongoing discussions with Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores about their vision to bring a Major League Soccer expansion team to Detroit," said Detroit Lions team President Rod Wood.  "The result is a compelling plan to present Ford Field as a state-of-the-art soccer stadium; a plan which reflects not just a shared vision to bring MLS to Detroit, but a desire to do so in a way that will both preserve Ford Field as one of the city's great assets and benefit the broader community.  As discussions with MLS progress, we look forward to working with Dan, Tom, and their respective organizations, who collectively embody the collaborative spirit at the heart of Detroit's rebirth."

Gilbert and Gores have been behind a push this year to bring an MLS expansion team to Detroit and applied earlier this year. They've proposed using the jail-fail site in Wayne County.

Rock Ventures Principal Matt Cullen, who has been leading the stadium plan for the Detroit MLS bid, said that while the original focus was on developing a new stadium on Gratiot Avenue, the analysis of Ford Field's unique potential opened the group's eyes to an even better possibility.

"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."

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