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Tom Gores, Arn Tellem optimistic about Detroit MLS bid

The Detroit News

Both Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and his top lieutenant, Arn Tellem, the Palace Sports & Entertainment chairman, expressed optimism Tuesday about their joint bid for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise with Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert.

Gores was honored Tuesday by Crain’s Detroit Business as its 2016 Newsmaker of the Year at a luncheon held at the MotorCity Casino Hotel, where he addressed a variety of issues, ranging from the Pistons’ plans to move downtown to his organization’s continued efforts to help with the Flint water crisis.

Arn Tellem speaks during the Crain’s Detroit Business event on Tuesday at the MotorCity Casino.

Gores deferred to Gilbert on the subject of a proposed land swap deal involving Wayne County jail site, which would be part of a $1 billion mixed-use development anchored by a 23,000-seat soccer stadium.

“I think that’s up to Dan,” Gores said. “I mean, he really is the expert in real estate. I’m not that involved in that. I think he’s very passionate about it. I wouldn’t doubt that he’s gonna get it done.”

The Detroit MLS bid submitted to league officials last month was contingent on that stadium proposal, and Tellem said Tuesday that the Gores-Gilbert group expects to meet with the MLS expansion committee in May or early June.

“Our hope is obviously to be prepared, and put our best foot forward by then, and have things solidified by then,” Tellem said.

Major League Soccer plans to add four more teams in its next round of expansion, with two of those teams beginning play in 2020. Those next two bids are expected to be awarded in the third quarter of this year, according to MLS commissioner Don Garber.

In the meantime, Gores also shared some thoughts Tuesday on other topics:

On the Pistons’ move downtown: “It is very consuming. But there’s so much opportunity here, and I feel good about spending the resources in this town. There’s no other sports town I would want to be in.”

On more opportunities for his Platinum Equity group in Detroit: “Oh, yeah. I think actually that’s one of the things I want to do, and be a bit more aggressive on. Michigan has 21 Fortune 500 companies. I think that’s sixth in the U.S. So there’s so much opportunity. And I think now that we’ve established ourselves as folks that really do care -- because there was a point in time that nobody knew if we were just giving a speech about it -- and now I think we have an opportunity to really leverage the relations. … So I want to get a little bit more invested on the business side.

“Nothing specific. … I think diving into downtown. I mean, Chris (Ilitch) and I are already looking at many, many things downtown. Because that’s really new, for us, in terms of the opportunity.”

On helping Flint: “The water is one thing. But we want to provide opportunity for people to grow. Huntington Bank is here, and they put up $25 million for business loans and so on. I think that’s the kind of stuff we have to continue to do. It’s one thing to give money, it’s another thing to give opportunity.

“That’s what I’m excited about. We have a big job. This is a big job. They have been ignored for a long time in Flint, and not to get into any political stuff, but I think the reaction has been way too slow. So I think our biggest job is how do we create opportunity for the people of Flint? Not make sure they’re good day-to-day, but make sure they’re good for the future. …

“What I would like to do in Flint is find one major corporation to move something there, whether it’s a distributorship or supply, Flint has an ability to manufacture – we all know the background there. So beyond influencing the health of the kids there and everything else, I want to find a business partner, whoever that’s gonna be, to relocate there. And give them a little bit of hope.”