The Ford family is joining the group trying to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Detroit, and the bid now proposes that the team play at Ford Field.
The Ford family, which owns the Detroit Lions, joins a group that already included Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. The bid initially focused on the site of a suspended jail project downtown as a potential spot for a new soccer venue, but the group announced Thursday that Ford Field — home of the Lions — is now the preference.
"Partnering with the Ford family bolsters our powerhouse group and provides a perfect stadium solution in the heart of Detroit's central business and sports and entertainment districts," said Arn Tellem, vice chairman of the Pistons. "No MLS stadium sits in a better downtown location than Ford Field."
While the addition of the Ford family gives the group another big name, the response from MLS was lukewarm.
"Although MLS has tremendous respect for all of the owners involved in the Detroit bid, we have not had an opportunity to evaluate the amended application and it would be premature for MLS to offer a specific comment on it," the league said in a statement. "MLS continues to prioritize soccer-specific stadiums as a criteria for the selection of MLS expansion markets."
Ford Field is an indoor stadium next to Comerica Park, where the Detroit Tigers play, and not far from the new arena where the Pistons and Red Wings play. MLS teams in Vancouver and Atlanta play indoors, but their venues have retractable roofs.
Atlanta shares its stadium with the NFL's Falcons, and the new soccer team drew huge crowds this year in its first season.
Ford Field recently underwent significant renovations.
"Detroit is fortunate to have a state of the art stadium like Ford Field and it makes perfect sense to utilize a stadium in the heart of downtown that's just undergone a $100 million renovation," Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement. "This partnership allows us to bring major league soccer to a first-class facility inside our growing sports and entertainment district and eliminates the potential request for Detroit tax dollars to construct another new stadium."