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Ford Field Retractable Roof Will Not be Installed for MLS


The Detroit Lions‘ Ford Field will not be retrofitted with a retractable roof for a MLS expansion squad, as was recently confirmed by Detroit’s bidders. 

Detroit’s MLS expansion bid, backed by Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores, proposes that the club play at Ford Field, the downtown home of the NFL’s Lions. The stadium has been a fixed-roof facility since opening in 2002, but it was learned earlier this year that backers of the MLS expansion bid were exploring the possibility of modifying the facility to add a retractable roof.

Such a switch may have made the facility more versatile and perhaps cleared the way for a natural-grass surface, a move that would likely entice MLS. However, it would have not have just been a simple change to the roof, as the project would have had implications for a facility that was originally designed to be completely indoors–for instance, where there’s an open roof and potentially real grass there’s also the need for a more robust drainage system.

In a September 24 letter to MLS, the backers of Detroit’s expansion said that they are not moving forward with the Ford Field retractable roof concept. While other changes would be made to the stadium to accommodate MLS, the addition of a retractable will not be one of them, “because the risks that would inhere to such an undertaking would substantially outweigh its rewards.” More from The Detroit News:

“We appreciate that you and the MLS Expansion Committee have been impressed with our vision, the strength of our ownership group and the appeal of Detroit as an MLS market,” businessman Dan Gilbert and Arn Tellem, who is representing Pistons owner Tom Gores, wrote to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and President Mark Abbott. “We agree with your assessment that our bid is unrivaled in each of these critical respects.

“Based on that assessment, you told me last April that MLS would grant us an expansion team if we agreed to put a retractable roof on Ford Field.

“After careful study and analysis, however, we have determined not to move forward with this proposed retrofit, because the risks that would inhere to such an undertaking would substantially outweigh its rewards.”

But, they made clear they are not going away.

“We understand and respect the MLS expansion process and your preference for soccer-specific stadium,” Gilbert and Tellem wrote. “But in view of the strength of our bid and the commitments we are prepared to make to MLS, the presence or absence of a retractable roof should not be a dispositive factor.”

The Detroit MLS expansion bid originally included a proposal for a new downtown soccer-specific stadium, but that concept was scrapped last fall. In its place, the bidders proposed placing the club in Ford Field and having the Ford family, owners of the Lions, join the MLS group. Detroit was one of four finalists considered for the last round of MLS expansion, but ultimately lost out to Nashville and Cincinnati–two bids that included plans for new soccer-specific stadiums. However, Detroit remains an option for future MLS expansion. Sister site Soccer Stadium Digest took a closer look at where Detroit stands in the MLS expansion process.

Rendering courtesy Rossetti.

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