MLS plan would build stadium at failed Wayne County jail site
DETROIT (WJBK) - They are competitors on the basketball court, but now billionaire businessmen Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores are teaming up on the soccer field.
The goal is to bring a major league club to downtown Detroit. Sports fans downtown had different opinions on the venture with some more positive than others.
But before we get to deciding how many soccer games we'll go to, a deal needs to be made between Wayne County and the partnership of Gores and Gilbert, owners of the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively.
The proposed site is for the Wayne County jail construction site that still needs to be completed on Gratiot. This project would be for several city blocks so it could come down to building a new jail and Frank Murphy court house across the street, somewhere else.
"We've gone a long way towards a completion of the existing jail," said Warren County Executive Warren Evans. "And we're getting an idea of what's that's going to cost and if we veer from that path, I have to be sure that Wayne County taxpayers will not have to pay more for a new project than to finish the jail."
This would be a $1 billion dollar project for a new stadium and mixed use development. Dan Gilbert says it will continue the resurgence of Detroit.
"Because that's the impact in all of this," said Gilbert, chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans. "A jail doesn't pay property taxes, doesn't spur other development, isn't connected to the other entertainment centers, doesn't create jobs."
The county has invested roughly $150 million, and a price tag of $50 million has been thrown out there in the past to purchase the property.
Evans says he needs to have a deal by the end of this summer. At that point, a timeline should be laid out on finishing construction for jail site.
FOX 2: "What dollar amount do you need in order to make this work?"
"We're not sure right now," Evans said. "And I wouldn't want to speculate because it's going to be considerably more; this needs to be a courthouse, not just a jail."
Mayor Mike Duggan also sounded off on the idea.
"I'm going to work day and night to bring Major League Soccer to downtown Detroit," Duggan said. "And one way or another, we're going to get it here - whether it's the county site or another site. I'm confident we're going to get it here."
Major League Soccer is expanding in the U.S. and Detroit could be one of its top markets.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber was positive about Detroit and prospect of a new team here.
"We're all focused on this city," said Garber. "We love it. We love all of the energy here. We love that there are companies that believe in the resurgence of the city.
"That is pretty much the character of our league. So we'll try to figure it all out in time."
When asked if public funding would be a factor, FOX 2 was told Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores would be taking on the bulk of cost, but couldn't give an exact dollar amount of who would pay what just yet.
Right now, the plan is to have Major League Soccer in the D by 2020.