- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

DETROIT (AP) - Major League Soccer is eyeing the site of a suspended jail project as a possible home for a new soccer team in Detroit, part of a massive downtown development that would be built in the same area where the Tigers, Lions and Red Wings play.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert were in Detroit on Wednesday to promote the plan. Gilbert and Pistons owner Tom Gores are trying to bring an MLS franchise to Detroit, and the potential ownership group and the league have their sights set on a spot just off Interstate 375.

“We as a league are very focused on that site,” Garber said.

The stadium is part of a larger proposal that could also include fitness facilities, an office tower, covered parking, a residential tower, open and covered plazas, a hotel, restaurants and retail. The total investment could be around $1 billion.

Gilbert, Gores and MLS want to build on the site of a jail project that has had all sorts of problems. The jail along Gratiot Avenue was wildly over budget and was abandoned during construction in 2013, but Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, who had no role in the earlier problems, has expressed interest in reviving the project.

On Wednesday, Evans wasn’t backing off that stance.

“Right now, finishing the Gratiot jail is the best option for quickly and cost-effectively building the new jail Wayne County needs,” he said in a statement. “To change our plans and go elsewhere, we will need a guarantee that there will be no additional cost to taxpayers in solving our jail problem.”

Gilbert said Detroit has a unique opportunity to put so many sports venues in one area.

“The county has to make a decision here in a somewhat short period of time,” Gilbert said. “The real question, though, for the county and the community and the people of Detroit is, do we want a jail at the foot of downtown, the front door? Or do we want a major development?”

Matt Cullen, president and CEO of Gilbert-chaired Rock Ventures, answered a question about public funding for the stadium project.

“Our expectation is that the bulk of the expenditure would be on the part of the private folks you see here,” Cullen said. “But we’d have to work through all the logistics and infrastructure, and things like that.”

Garber said a team could be in Detroit as early as 2020. MLS, which started play in 1996, currently has 20 teams, and owners have voted to expand to 28.

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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