Detroit may have been passed over in this latest round of MLS expansion, but the city remains in the mix for one of the two expansion spots the league plans to add in the near future.
Detroit’s expansion bid, spearheaded by Pistons owner Tom Gores, Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Detroit native Dan Gilbert, and the Ford Family, owners of the NFL’s Detroit Lions, plan to use Ford Field, a 65,000 seat capacity football stadium, to host a potential team. The group is now looking to refine that plan in a way that satisfies MLS leaders.
“I think MLS has now accepted the fact that Ford Field is the right place,” Arn Tellem, vice chairman of the Pistons, who has been charged by Gores with leading the expansion bid, told the Detroit News earlier this week.
“We’re continuing our discussions with them. They view Detroit favorably and our application favorably, and we’re just going to continue to answer some of the questions that they have.”
Detroit’s bid once hinged on building a soccer-specific stadium on the site of an unfinished county jail, but Tellem now insists there will be no such stadium constructed in the city. He stressed the prime location of Ford Field and the success of teams like Atlanta United and the Seattle Sounders, who both play in NFL sized stadiums.
“We believe the most successful teams, Atlanta and Seattle, are playing in multi-purpose stadiums,” Tellem said. “They’re playing in football stadiums.”
“And, there is no better location for a stadium in MLS than Ford Field,” he added.
“The most successful franchise are the ones that are situated in the core, the heart of the city. And the teams that have struggled are the ones in the ’burbs.
“It’s not so much about the size of a stadium or the purpose of a stadium, it’s about location; it’s really what is the most determining factor.”
Tellem and his team are now working with MLS officials as they search for a way to refine the Ford Field plan to suit the league’s needs.
“What is going on now is MLS is taking deeper dive into Ford Field and doing an analysis. It is going to come back with some recommendations at some points as to what they feel needs to be done to make it perfect for soccer,” Tellem said.
“And then, we’ll evaluate what their recommendations are.”
MLS has not announced a timetable for awarding its next two expansion slots, but they were originally slated to be announced by the end of this year.