DETROIT (WWJ) – Billionaire Detroit developer Dan Gilbert and Pistons executive Arn Tellem have announced a $1 billion plan to build a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium at the site of Wayne County’s unfinished jail.
Never mind that they don’t own the land.
Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, who wasn’t present at Wednesdays conference, is teaming up with Gilbert for the project, with plans for the development also including restaurants, offices and hotel rooms.
Gilbert, flanked by MLS commissioner Don Garber, said the arena also would be used for amateur soccer, rugby, lacrosse and other big events.
Gores and Gilbert apparently have their hearts set on the Gratiot Ave. property, where construction of a new 2,000-bed jail went wildly over budget. Work has been idled for about two-and-a-half years now, due to cost overruns totaling more than $90 million.
Before work on the pro soccer project could begin, a deal would need to be struck with Wayne County officials who earlier dismissed the offer.
Regardless, Gilbert said he’s ready to go — even releasing detailed renderings.
“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. “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 Wednesday with Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and others to discuss a possible deal, offering $50 million for the jail site.
Garber said Detroit was never on the list for expansion plans, but all of the “cool things” going on in the city make is an advantageous opportunity.
They hope to be able to play ball in Detroit by 2020.
“We didn’t feel like we were credible enough to come earlier with a development plan,” Gilbert said. “We didn’t have MLS yet, sort of highly interested, and we didn’t have another partner, which we wanted. Now, now it’s credible.”
For his part, after meeting with Glibert and company, Evans remains unmoved.
“I mean, it was a nice presentation,” he told WWJ’s Stephanie Davis. “But the reality is — and they know my reality — I can’t cost the taxpayers any more money.”
Evans said, at this point, the county will continue to move ahead with plans to complete the jail.
The bottom line?
“What was economically feasible for Wayne County has been very clearly finishing on the jail site,” Evans said. “Not ’cause 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.”
“If that scenario changes, you know, then we change with the scenario,” he added.
Gilbert said he has no plan B.