DETROIT — Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert announced today they are partnering to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) club to downtown Detroit. The ownership group’s efforts are supported by MLS and its commissioner Don Garber, who recently announced plans to grow the league to 28 teams and identified Detroit as market of great interest.
Gores and Gilbert, both graduates of Michigan State University with substantial sports, business and investment holdings in the region, issued a joint statement: “Detroit is rising and we know firsthand the power of sports to lift a community and drive a civic renaissance. We are very excited about the prospect of bringing Major League Soccer to Detroit and building an ownership group that represents a cross-section of investors.”
The MLS commissioner will be in Detroit this week and will meet with the potential ownership group to discuss their expansion plan. It will include the construction of a stadium in downtown Detroit.
Major League Soccer has experienced a period of unprecedented growth during the last 12 years, doubling in size from 10 to 20 clubs since 2004. The process and timeline for expansion to 28 clubs will be announced in the coming months.
The addition of an MLS club would fuel the growing excitement building in Detroit and enhance the expanding entertainment district in the city. The team will serve the impressive soccer fan base in the state, which includes thousands of millennials and Michigan youth. Soccer has become one of the most popular sports in the state, with more than 92,000 registered youth players in Michigan.
“I’ve always believed a sports franchise is a community asset with the power to unite and inspire people,” said Gores. “I’m excited to partner with Dan and help in Detroit’s resurgence. Together we have all the tools we need to make a new team successful.”
“Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world with a passionate fan base and global reach,” said Gilbert. “Bringing a team downtown will also further energize Detroit’s urban core, which is critical to the entire city’s overall health and vibrancy.”
A Compelling Opportunity for the City of Detroit
Independent studies in comparable MLS franchise markets predict an economic impact to their respective regions of $1.2 billion over 30 years.
The Metro Detroit market is home to a large base of soccer players, fans and supporters and has developed a passionate soccer culture. Detroiters support minor league soccer at a high level. An MLS team will complement the two lower division minor league soccer teams playing in Detroit.
If Detroit is chosen for an MLS expansion team, it would become the most dense urban sports and entertainment district city in America with four major professional sports stadiums within a 10-15 minute walk: Ford Field, Comerica Park, the new Detroit Red Wings arena and the new MLS stadium.
Detroit and the state of Michigan have a strong corporate base capable of supporting MLS operations. Michigan is home to 21 Fortune 500 companies, ranking sixth among U.S. states. In addition, there are large private enterprises in the state such as Ilitch Holdings and Rock Ventures.
In 2014, the University of Michigan hosted the biggest soccer game ever played on American soil – a friendly match between Real Madrid and Manchester United. The game drew an astonishing 109,318 fans to Michigan Stadium, breaking the record of 101,799 set at the Rose Bowl for the 1984 Olympics final. Based on the success of that event, on July 30, 2016Michigan will again host two of the biggest teams in soccer when Real Madrid and Chelsea face off at the Big House.
MLS league initiatives seek to improve lives and communities at the grassroots level from providing safe play spaces and free after-school programming in underserved urban communities to donating soccer equipment to community organizations.
About Tom Gores
Gores, a Flint native, is Chairman and CEO of Platinum Equity, a global private equity firm with more than $6 billion in assets under management and investments in a broad array of sectors including automotive, transportation and logistics, manufacturing industries, media, and sports and entertainment. His holdings include the Detroit Pistons NBA franchise, the Palace of Auburn Hills arena and related entertainment businesses and venues include DTE Energy Music Theatre and operating rights to Meadow Brook Amphitheatre and Freedom Hill Amphitheatre.
About Dan Gilbert
Gilbert, a Detroit native, is Founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans Inc., the nation’s second largest mortgage lender. He is Founder and Chairman of Rock Ventures LLC, the umbrella entity for his portfolio of business and real estate investments, and majority owner of the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers. Gilbert also owns the NBA D-League’s Canton Charge, the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters and the AFL’s Cleveland Gladiators.
Gilbert has invested more than $2.2 billion to purchase and renovate more than 90 commercial properties in Detroit accounting for more than 14 million square feet in the city’s urban core. His companies employ more than 15,000 team members in downtown Detroit. Gilbert is also an active investor in sports-related consumer technology businesses, including wall graphic leader Fathead; electronic ticketing company Flash Seats; sports video and analytics platform Krossover; automated game highlights on demand company WSC; venture capital fund investing across early stage technology and media companies with a focus on sports Courtside Ventures; and media and content annotation site Genius.
Source: Palace Sports & Entertainment, Platinum Equity and Rock Ventures