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.

Garber: MLS to keep adding teams like there’s no tomorrow

During halftime of last night’s MLS All-Star Game — in which the league’s best players were trounced by a club team that finished 7th in the Italian league last season — MLS commissioner Don Garber announced that the league will expand by another four teams, to 24, by the year 2020.

That would just continue the crazy pace that MLS has been on since 2005, when it had only ten teams; NYC F.C. is set to become the league’s 20th team in 2015, meaning the league will keep on adding one team a year (with one year off, maybe) through the end of the decade. Possible expansion targets could include Miami, Atlanta, Sacramento, Orlando, Detroit, Minneapolis, and probably a few others that the AP and I are both forgetting.

This is likely to mean more attempts at stadium deals, which are already burbling under the surface in many of those cities (Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson declared his renewed support for a soccer stadium there earlier this week). On the one hand, the pre-announcement of so much expansion should actually give more leverage to city mayors to drive a harder bargain on stadium deals, since if MLS needs to come up with sites for four more teams, they’re going to have to take pretty much whatever stadiums they can get. On the other hand, city mayors don’t really seem to understand leverage, so it probably won’t matter.

Michigan approves Detroit bonds for Red Wings arena, still won’t let Detroit spend on anything else

Need more evidence that the Detroit Red Wings arena subsidy is really, truly going ahead despite the city of Detroit being bankrupt? The state just approved the city’s development arm to sell $284.5 million in bonds for the project:

[Gov. Rick] Snyder paid a visit to the Strategic Fund board moments after it approved the deal and said the new arena is very exciting for Michigan.

“Detroit’s really on a comeback path,” he said. “I think Detroit is absolutely poised for a bright exciting future. This is just another proof point in that exercise.”…

He said he can justify the use of tax dollars on the project, given Detroit’s finances, because it is about investing in the city’s future.

“This is a catalyst project,” Snyder said. “This is going to be where the Red Wings are. Who doesn’t get fired up in Detroit about the Red Wings? Come on now, the people that are criticizing are people from outside of Michigan. This is something that is important to all of us.”

Only about 55% [UPDATE: see below] of the public bonds will be repaid by the Detroit Development Authority out of city property taxes — the rest will come from Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch — so that would keep the city’s subsidy down to a mere $156 million [UPDATE: see below]. Still, you can’t help wondering if the state government that is forcing Detroit to consider selling off the paintings in its art museum might be a bit hasty in not questioning whether a new hockey arena is the best “investment in the city’s future” that the city can come up with. Even if, say, a working school system might not get people as “fired up.” Maybe if the schools sold souvenir jerseys…

Meanwhile, it looks like somebody has decided that so long as there’s public money being handed around for stadiums, he’s going to try to get a piece of the action:

The Toronto-based owners of the Pontiac Silverdome have submitted a bid for the Wayne County justice department sites in hopes of opening a stadium for a Detroit Major League Soccer team, along with a mall, residential space and office towers.

MLS says it will “monitor” the Silverdome owner’s plans. Which, given that it’s this guy, sounds about right.

UPDATE: A new analysis by Crain’s Detroit has the city’s share of the arena project at 58%, for a total of $261.5 million, so clearly my math was a bit off. (I think I used the wrong denominator. It was early.) That’s in line with the original estimates. Also, a heckuva lot of money. I still haven’t seen any studies, even crappy ones, showing how Detroit would make that back in new economic activity from moving a hockey arena from one part of town to another.