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MLS soccer bid bounces to Ford Field

Brook Ward
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A plan to build a multi-million dollar soccer stadium in downtown Detroit appears dead.

Billionaire businessmen Tom Gores and Dan Gilbert have struck a deal with the Ford family to use Ford Field for a future Major League Soccer franchise. Gores and Gilbert have been bidding for a future MLS franchise for more than a year. The league is expected to announce its expansion plans next month.

A spokesman says “partnering with the Ford family … provides a perfect stadium solution in the heart of Detroit’s central business and sports and entertainment districts.” 

Gores and Gilbert’s soccer plans originally included building a new stadium on the site of the unfinished Wayne County jail site. But that now appears over. 

That’s good news, according to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

“This partnership allows us to bring major league soccer to a first-class facility inside our growing sports and entertainment district and eliminates the potential request for Detroit tax dollars to construct another new stadium.”

However, moving from what would have been a more intimate venue specially designed to watch soccer to a much larger football stadium may in fact be a problem.

MLS officials tweeted out a statement saying in part:

“MLS continues to prioritize soccer-specific stadiums as a criteria for the selection of MLS expansion markets.”

MLS plans to announce next month the two markets it plans to expand to in 2020.  The league also plans additional expansion in 2022.  

So where does this leave Wayne County? 

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans welcomed the news of the switch to Ford Field. Evans says the county’s the “focus is to complete negotiations with (Dan Gilbert’s) Rock Ventures on a new state-of-the-art criminal justice center.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.