A Detroit Lions executive confirmed that the team is considering adding a retractable roof to Ford Field, a move that could help land an MLS expansion franchise.
The Detroit MLS expansion bid is centered around a proposal to use the currently fixed-roof Ford Field, rather than construct a new soccer-specific stadium. If the proposal moved forward, the Ford family–owners of the Lions–would be added to an MLS group that is currently headed by Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores, owners the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons, respectively.
The expansion group is looking into ways to make Ford Field more enticing to MLS, and Gilbert indicated recently that adding a retractable roof to the venue was one option that was being explored. In a radio interview this week, Lions president Rod Wood confirmed that the team is exploring that possibility as discussions about a potential MLS club continue. More from The Detroit Free Press:
Detroit Lions president Rod Wood said on WJR-AM (760) Monday morning that he and other Lions executives are looking into a retractable roof to help bring a Major League Soccer team to Detroit.
“It’s something we’re looking at. We’re going to have a meeting later this week,” Wood said on “The Frank Beckmann Show.” “It’s been an interesting process working with Dan (Gilbert) and Tom Gores and their teams, and Arn Tellem is pretty much leading this pitch with MLS.”
The MLS has been looking at Detroit as one of the main cities considered for an expansion team for the 2020 season. The issue Detroit faces is the games have to be played outdoors and players prefer to play on grass — Ford Field offers neither and a new stadium is most likely out of the question.
“Building another stadium makes no sense with the three that we have,” Wood said. “I think there’s a purest wing in the MLS and they like to play on grass, they like to play outside. They have preferred smaller stadiums, although the two most successful franchises play in football stadiums, in Atlanta and Seattle. They regularly draw 40, 50, 60,000 fans and I think we might have a shot at doing the same thing downtown.
Discussions over Ford Field continue as the MLS group looks to bolster its case in the next round of expansion. In the last round, the Detroit bid made a slate of four finalists considered by MLS in December, only to lose out to Nashville and later Cincinnati–two proposals that included plans for new soccer-specific stadiums.
Soccer-specific stadiums have become more common around MLS, and they are at the center of many competing expansion proposals. However, Detroit looks to be attempting to sell itself as a potential success in the mold of Atlanta and Seattle, two examples of where teams are thriving in shared MLS/NFL venues. Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in particular would seem to be a model for Detroit, as the retractable-roof facility opened last year and has been a major factor in Atlanta United FC’s success in setting attendance records.
Of course, a Ford Field retractable roof would also have NFL implications by giving the Lions more flexibility when weather conditions allow for opening the roof. It remains to be seen if this idea will come to fruition, though, as several factors will have to be considered, including costs and financing.
Sister site Soccer Stadium Digest has closely followed Detroit’s MLS expansion bid, along with proposals from competing cities.
Rendering courtesy Rossetti.
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