Cavs, Pistons owners to seek Detroit MLS stadium, because what bankrupt city doesn’t need four new sports venues?

The owners of the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers have announced they’re teaming up to seek a Detroit MLS franchise:

Soccer is the most popular sport in the state, according to [Tom Gores and Dan Gilbert’s press] release, with 92,000 registered players in Michigan and “if Detroit is chosen for an MLS expansion team, it would become the most dense urban sports and entertainment district city in America with four major professional sports stadiums within a 10-15 minute walk: Ford Field, Comerica Park, the new Detroit Red Wings arena and the new MLS stadium.”

Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention this would require a new MLS stadium? Gores and Gilbert didn’t say anything about where a new stadium would go, though Gilbert’s Quicken Loans owns a ton of downtown Detroit land that would qualify as “within a 10-15 minute walk” of Mike Ilitch’s baseball-and-hockey-world.

The bigger question is how a new stadium would be paid for, since a publicly funded MLS stadium could also make Detroit the home of the most dense set of stadium subsidies in America. Gores and Gilbert might choose to go it themselves — MLS stadiums are relatively cheap as these things go, and it could be a kind of loss leader for their other downtown properties. (Not that soccer fans would buy that much from neighboring stores, but anything new in Detroit helps sell that neighborhood as “not the part of the city that’s totally burnt-out and where the streetlights don’t work.”) Best to keep a close eye on this, anyway.

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21 comments on “Cavs, Pistons owners to seek Detroit MLS stadium, because what bankrupt city doesn’t need four new sports venues?

  1. The press release was revealing in the sense that it barely mentioned soccer at all, aside from what Neil quoted here. That says plenty about what MLS and its investors’ priorities are.

    I get that it’s North America, and that pro sports here is (and always has been, and always will be) strictly an entertainment business, but for f— sake, they’re trying their darnedest to Americanize the Global Game here.

  2. This actually makes a lot of sense. The stadium site will probably be the old Brewster projects site. With two sides facing the highway, it’s never gonna be prime retail or housing frontage. Negates nearly the entire debate about stadiums and their lack of every-day use. And with the huge housing investment already coming in Brush Park, this could be almost an overnight neighborhood venue. Near the QLine, near the Woodward BRT. A great place to expand the stadium district without getting rid of anything of real value. As long as they don’t use any public money towards it (and they really shouldn’t since Gores and Gilbert are filthy rich) this will end up being a positive for the city.

  3. Dear lord, the QLine:

  4. Neil, I hope you’re not including Comerica Park as a new venue. After all, it opened up way, way back in 2000.

  5. The land around the silver dome would be better

    No it wouldn’t. No one wants to go watch soccer in the burbs, especially Pontiac. Besides, Gilbert is investing in downtown Detroit so the stadium is gonna be close to his properties.

    Dear lord, the QLine:

    Two can play that game…

    Investors queue up for QLine: Real estate deals show economic clout of mass transit project

    Real estate investors have spent more than $1 billion acquiring properties near the QLine rail route, gobbling up buildings near future rail stations and in Highland Park in hopes the project will be extended northward.

    That $1.3 billion figure cited by Cullen includes $275 million worth of residential construction in or near Midtown — projects like The Scott at Brush Park. The QLine was a “huge factor” behind the $65 million development, two blocks south of the future Martin Luther King Jr. rail stations, said developer Clifford A. Brown, managing partner of Southfield-based Woodborn Partners LLC. The project, scheduled for completion in December, will include 199 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail at Woodward Avenue and Erskine Street.

  6. And they couldn’t have re-used Tiger Stadium for this?

    No. Detroit PAL already broke ground on a new project there:

  7. Since this site is devoted to scrutinizing public subsidies for sports arenas, the possible arrival of MLS in Detroit is particularly troubling. There already is a semipro team in the Motor City, Detroit City FC.

    In partnership with the local school system, they raised about $720,000 to renovate an existing stadium that will hold anticipated crowds of 7,000 or so.

  8. Oh, I have no doubt the QLine will be great for landowners along the site, who now get to put “near mass transit” on their sales prospectuses. It’s just not going to do much more to actually get Michiganders from place to place than the People Mover did.

  9. Glad to see that Gores and Gilbert are teaming up for something other than the ridiculous idea of putting another indoor arena in downtown Detroit. Yes, the Pistons should move downtown to the Red Wings crib but building another arena would be overkill.

  10. Quote: …anything new in Detroit helps sell that neighborhood as “not the part of the city that’s totally burnt-out and where the streetlights don’t work.”

    You obviously haven’t been to Detroit in a while; Number one, the city is no longer in bankruptcy; that ended at least three years ago. Number two, there are large swaths of real estate that I’ll put up against the best your city has in terms of walkability, safety, and social activity. Real estate prices are skyrocketing, and it is selling. Yes, there are big stretches of real estate with vacant blocks where houses used to be, and others where suburbanites really ought not to go, but show me a large city that doesn’t have that. Streetlights in the residential areas are roughly 98% operational, and all LED to boot, with freeway and major surface roads to be complete by the end of this year.

    1. Yeah, the taxpayers had to bail out the city of corruption. Does the name Kwame Kilpatrick ring a bell? Detroit is a dump, period. It’s the perfect example of 50 years of Democrat rule.

  11. I haven’t been to Detroit in a few years, no, but I’m well aware of how it’s attracting new interest from newcomers. A friend of mine even just wrote a book about her experience buying and renovating a home there:

    My point is exactly yours, in fact: Detroit has a lousy image among outsiders, and in order to appeal to them (which is who has the money to pay more for real estate), developers need to say, “No, really, this is the cool, safe part of the city where suburbanites can feel comfortable.” A soccer stadium could do nicely in that regard, so I wouldn’t be all too surprised to see Gores and Gilbert fund one on that basis. (Though I wouldn’t be surprised to see them ask for public money, too, if they thought they could get it.)

  12. No city should allow a jail to be built on prime downtown land. Hope that local team is able to join forces with the billionaires. Looks like half the NBA will partner with MLS and a few will start an indoor league. Those NBA board meetings should be fun.

    1. “Hope that local team is able to join forces with the billionaires.”

      A team built from the ground-up, by the anti-establishment hipster types, teaming up with a top-down operation headed by the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans.

      I’d honestly put better odds on Detroit annexing Windsor by this time next year.

    2. I’d also suggest that “Big Four” owners investing in MLS isn’t as positive a trend as its fans make it out to be. Most of them will see their individual MLS franchises (and by extension, the league — and even the sport — itself) as a side project at best, and a bit part of their portfolio at worst.

      It also steers American soccer further and further away from how the sport (and its pyramid of clubs and leagues) are structured, but that’s obviously a whole different debate.

  13. Cities like San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle might have a few seedy areas, but they don’t have the vast swaths of vacant land where rows and rows of homes used to be. That seems to be a phenomenon peculiar to the Rust Belt.

  14. Look, I know Tiger Stadium has this hold on people of a certain age, but, no, you couldn’t keep it, it would not have made sense for a soccer stadium in the 21st century, it was no longer adequate as a baseball facility 20 years ago and now it’s gone. Time to move on.

    Also, “semipro” is a term that gets bandied about a lot, but which has no real meaning. Detroit City FC uses (largely) amateur players. It’s an amateur team playing in a ramshackle league. Kudos to its fervent fan base for what they have done and the stadium project, but come on. Let’s not make it into something it isn’t.

    And, no, the Silverdome site would not be better, either.

    1. Tiger Stadium was outstanding for baseball from the perspective of watching the game, and would have been even better if it had gotten a FenwayCochrane Plan-style makeover.

      I agree it would have been less than ideal for soccer, though.

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