DETROIT (WWJ) — Last April, billionaire Dan Gilbert revealed sparkling plans for a brand new professional soccer stadium in downtown Detroit.

He planned to build the stadium on the site of the unfinished Wayne County jail project, which has sat untouched since 2013. The only problem is: Gilbert doesn’t own the land, Wayne County does.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans announced last week that the county was readying to resume work on the jail in the coming months. Evans said Friday that Walsh Construction will receive the request for a proposal on February 10.

But Gilbert might swoop in and make a reasonable offer for the site before that happens, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“The timing requirements put forward by County Executive Evans are clear and fully understood by our team,” Matt Cullen, head of Rock Ventures, said in a statement to the Free Press. “We have now completed enough of our initial due diligence that will allow us to submit our offer in advance of the county executive’s deadline.”

Gilbert’s plan included restaurants, offices and hotels, in addition to the 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium.

“The real question though for the county and the community and the people of Detroit is, you know, do we want a jail at the foot of downtown and the front door?” Gilbert said at the unveiling last year. “Or do we want a major development that’s gonna create economic, great economics for job creation, for, you know, tax roll creation and for overall optimism as you move through the city?”

Gilbert said he met with Evans, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and others to discuss a possible deal, offering $50 million for the jail site earlier last year.

“What was economically feasible for Wayne County has been very clearly finishing on the jail site,” Evans said after the presentation. “Not because it’s the best place, not because anybody’s heart’s in it — but because it’s the only feasible option that Wayne County had for the cheapest amount of money to the taxpayers.”

Gilbert said there was “no Plan B” if plans for the proposal go south. His proposal included a partnership with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores.

“It is at the entrance to downtown and with Detroit growing and things happening we don’t want an eyesore sitting there unfinished,” Evans said Friday. “Whatever the final use of it turns out to be it shouldn’t be an abandoned, partially-finished jail.”


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