A group seeking to take a Major League Soccer franchise to the US city of Detroit has abandoned plans to build a new stadium, with the team having now been pitched to play at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions NFL American football team.
The site on which the group had intended to build the stadium will still undergo renovation work, but plans for a soccer-specific stadium have been dropped.
The group is being led by billionaires Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores and has now received the backing of the Ford family. The group hopes to have an MLS team playing in Detroit in 2020.
In a statement reported by the Crain’s Detroit Business website, Arn Tellem, who is handling the expansion bid for the ownership group, said: “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.
“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.”
MLS is due to announce its latest expansion franchises in December. The league prefers handing franchises to cities that feature a soccer-specific venue, although it remains open to a dual-hosting model. Atlanta United, for example, entered MLS this season and shares the recently-opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the Atlanta Falcons NFL team.
The league said: “Although MLS has tremendous respect for the all of the owners involved in the Detroit bid, we have not had an opportunity to evaluate the amended application and it would be premature for MLS to offer a specific comment on it. MLS continues to prioritise soccer-specific stadiums as a criterion for the selection of MLS expansion markets.”
Lions president Rod Wood said discussions between the team and the MLS expansion group have been active and the concept is a “compelling plan to present Ford Field as a state-of-the-art soccer stadium”.