Retractable Ford Field roof one possibility for MLS expansion

By Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Among the new considerations for bringing a Major League Soccer team to Detroit is putting a retractable roof on Ford Field.

Detroit — Among the new considerations for bringing Major League Soccer to town is a retractable roof for Ford Field.

Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, founder of Quicken Loans, and one of the proposed owners of an MLS franchise in the city, revealed the idea in an interview with Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Daily.

“It’s one of many options being explored,” Kevin Grigg, a spokesman for the Pistons, confirmed.

However, Grigg emphasized that a myriad of potential options are under review, early in an ongoing process that is expected to take some time.

According to the trade publication, Gilbert said his executives are meeting with officials from Ford Field to determine the cost and feasibility.

More: Detroit officials redevelop plans for MLS at Ford Field bid

“If we get that worked out,” Gilbert said. “I think we have a pretty good chance.”

Arn Tellem, the vice chairman of the Pistons who is organizing the MLS expansion bid at the direction of Tom Gores, the owner of Detroit's NBA franchise, told The Detroit News recently that Ford Field will remain the only possible venue for a professional soccer team.

The bidders and MLS officials are involved in a vigorous review of how to best use Ford Field for the purpose, Tellem said.

Gilbert, Gores and Martha Firestone Ford, owner of the Detroit Lions, continue to talk with MLS about an expansion franchise, one of two the top professional soccer league in North America intends to award.

A spokesman for the Lions on Thursday referred all inquiries about the retractable roof idea to the Detroit MLS ownership group.

With the Detroit bidders proposing to play at Ford Field, both Nashville and Cincinnati received expansion franchises since last summer with smaller, soccer-specific outdoor stadiums.

The selections were a strong indication of the evaluation of the Ford Field proposal, MLS officials later confirmed.

MLS officials have made clear soccer-specific stadiums are a key to the success of the league.

But Tellem said the Detroit bidders continue to point to the presence of Ford Field at the heart of a sports and entertainment center in the core of the city, and hope some arrangement can be worked out.

The suitability of a soccer pitch in an indoor stadium designed for the NFL remains the major obstacle.

Tellem said the bidders continue to meet with their architect, Rossetti Associates, and MLS officials to discuss more suitable alternatives for the use of Ford Field than what was included in the original bid.

“We’re continuing our discussions with them,” Tellem said. “What is going on, now, is MLS is taking a deeper dive into Ford Field and doing an analysis. It is going to come back with some recommendations at some points as to what they feel needs to be done to make it perfect for soccer.

"And then, we’ll evaluate what their recommendations are.

“I think we can have a soccer experience there that rivals not only any MLS stadium but any European soccer experience, which is the thing that we’re trying to do.”