The Sweeper: MLS is a Suburb of Detroit

Pontiac Silverdome

Big Story
Detroit
hasn’t exactly been on everybody’s lips as the next great MLS market (Don Garber announced that was likely Montreal in his State of the League address yesterday).

But news from the Free Press at least potentially puts the city back on the table: “A family-owned Toronto real estate company has submitted a winning bid of $583,000 for the Pontiac Silverdome, former home of the Detroit Lions until they moved to Ford Field in 2002, and nearly 130 adjacent acres. The winning bidder, one of four and whose identity has not yet been released, plans to use the facility for a men’s Major League Soccer team and women’s professional soccer teams, Fred Leeb, Pontiac’s emergency financial manager, told the Free Press in an exclusive interview.”

I guess that means the winning bidder would fulfill one of the key criteria for running an MLS stadium, control of their own stadium. $583,000 sounds like a steal (hell, it was 1% of what it cost to build the damn thing a good 34 years ago), but maintaining and operation an 80,000 capacity stadium for MLS games isn’t exactly a goldmine, unless the enthusiasm for soccer in Detroit is considerably greater than any of us imagine (unless, of course, the mysterious bidder is rich enough to also build a brand new soccer stadium on that 130 acre adjacent plot).

The purchase came as a surprise to the closest existing professional soccer team there, Columbus Crew affiliate the Michigan Bucks (based in nearby Pontiac), whose owner Dan Duggan had expected the stadium to sell for far more.

The Silverdome has a colourful past, including a roof collapse in 1985, world-record indoor crowds for concerts (Led Zeppelin, 1975) and 93,173 showing up for Wrestlemania III in 1987. It even became the first ever indoor venue in the World Cup finals in 1994 (natural grass was installed over the turf). It’d be an even stranger step in the Silverdome’s history if Major League Soccer ended up there, but I’d look forward to the road trip…and I guess Sepp Blatter would be pleased too, as we could have winter soccer in the midwest and all. Likelihood?  Low.

Worldwide News

  • There are more on Don Garber’s remarks in various places, with plenty of links and parsing by Fake Sigi. With Montreal looking set to be MLS’ #19 and the league planning to pause at 20 teams for some time, the scramble for that final spot will be fierce, which is perhaps why the talk of a possible MLS-2 was far from killed off by the Commissioner. Not a bad spot for the league to be in.
  • MLS’ web presence sees the first fruits of taking its development in-house and its hire of The Offside Rules blogger Shawn Francis, with the launch of the MLS Insider blog  in time for MLS Cup. What do you think of the looks of it?  We had quite an interesting debate about SF’s blogging on these pages at the time of the announcement, if you’ll recall.
  • Scotland fired George Burley, but the British press sees few good candidates to replace him, with Rangers’ Walter Smith perhaps the favourite given the club’s own troubles.
  • Matt Dickinson considers the inconsistent justice meted out by football authorities around the world from FIFA (to Diego Maradona) to the FA (to Alex Ferguson).
  • Get ready for more and more whining about the vuvuzela as the World Cup draws closer. Japan’s Football Association President Motoaki Inukai said that “We have requested that the South African FA cut that noise out,” after playing a friendly there this weekend.
  • Footiebusiness reports on MLS’ season ticket renewals, with a wild range from over 90% in Seattle (no surprise) to just 30% in New England. Not sure how this compares historically at this stage of the renewal drive, but the league rate is at around 60%.

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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