NBA team owners propose $1 billion plan to attract U.S. pro soccer to Detroit

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 27, 2016 7:43 PM

DETROIT (Reuters) - Two professional basketball team owners on Wednesday announced a $1 billion investment plan to attract a Major League Soccer franchise to downtown Detroit in a move they said would help revitalize the city.

Dan Gilbert, the owner of the National Basketball Association's Cleveland Cavaliers, and Tom Gores, who owns the Detroit Pistons, proposed a 20,000-seat stadium on 15-acres that includes the site of the halted Wayne County jail, according to a spokeswoman for Gilbert and a statement.

The proposal includes plans for fitness facilities, an office tower, covered parking, a residential tower, open and covered plazas, a hotel, restaurants and retail, the statement said. The proposal also includes relocating the current Wayne County Jail, a circuit court and a county juvenile detention facility.

The plan was unveiled at a news conference by Gilbert and Pistons executive Arn Tellem, and officials said it is meant to help revitalize downtown Detroit.

The city of Detroit exited the biggest-ever U.S. municipal bankruptcy in December 2014.

However, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said in a statement that he wanted to see a proposal that would not cost the taxpayers any extra money or delay the opening of the unfinished jail.

"My priority is protecting the interests of Wayne County taxpayers," he said in a statement. "Right now, finishing the Gratiot jail is the best option for quickly and cost-effectively building the new jail Wayne County needs."

On Tuesday, Gores, chief executive of private equity firm Platinum Equity and a Flint, Michigan, native, and Gilbert, a Detroit native and chairman of mortgage lender Quicken Loans, announced they were teaming up to bring an MLS team to downtown Detroit.

The effort is supported by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who was present at the Wednesday news conference and recently said the league would expand to 28 teams.

MLS currently has 20 teams with plans to add four others. Detroit and Sacramento are the leading candidates to be added to the expansion list.

Historically, the league has looked at three areas when weighing expansion markets - strong ownership group, plans for a soccer-specific stadium and success as a market that supports soccer.

In 2014, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor hosted the biggest soccer game ever played on American soil - a friendly match between Real Madrid and Manchester United that drew 109,318 fans, topping the previous mark of 101,799 set in the 1984 Olympics final, Gilbert and Gores said in a statement.

The Pontiac Silverdome outside Detroit hosted four first-round matches in the 1994 World Cup tournament, won by Brazil.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Karen Pierog in Chicago, editing by G Crosse)