CLEVELAND – OCTOBER 27: Majority owner Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks to the media prior to playing the Boston Celtics in the Cavaliers 2010 home opner at Quicken Loans Arena on October 27, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

In one of the more convoluted methods to get government help to build a stadium, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is offering to build a new prison in order to free up the land needed to build an MLS stadium in Detroit with Pistons owner Tom Gores.

The land that Gilbert is seeking for the stadium is currently the downtown site for a prison that’s already in development. And because of its close proximity to Ford Field, it is a very attractive piece of land for Gilbert. For this, that’s the reason why Gilbert is willing to build the prison elsewhere. Plans would be for a new adult and juvenile detention center as well as a new courthouse elsewhere in the county.

Detroit lawmakers will determine whether this is the best move going forward. After having about $200 million of taxpayer money already contributed to the unfinished prison, it would cost $300 million to finish the project. Gilbert’s plan, just to build the prisons, would cost $420 million and would get $300 million of taxpayer money from the county.

So, in looking at the taxpayer point of view, they are essentially paying $300 million regardless of how the county votes. But if they vote to move the stadium, that could open up the possibility of having to pay more money for the stadium. At least if the current prison is completed, they won’t get an MLS stadium but know that they are only out $300 million.

Lawmakers were pretty vague on the plan but the location Gilbert was proposing for the prison was a possible location for a prison years ago. Commissioner Raymond Basham was the only one who gave a projection on whether the plan would pass. Basham was skeptical and didn’t think the county would accept the proposal.

“The taxpayers have spent a tremendous amount of money on the failed jail project,” he said. “There is no good option other than to continue to move forward and get this thing done.”

Gilbert is claiming that because the unfinished jail is costing taxpayers $1.2 million a month and having nothing to show for it, moving the prison site would at least mean a finished site and a prison that could be used, as well land that’s freed up downtown to use for a soccer stadium.

But with this proposal brings a lot of risks. For one, it would potentially cost taxpayers hundreds of millions more. And another, Detroit is going against 11 other cities for four expansion teams so the council would need to approve this deal before they even know they have a team.

The idea looks good on the surface because it at least involves an owner willing to build something for the county instead of taking everything. But looking deeper, it seems like it’s any other proposal where an owner wants taxpayer money to build a stadium. And given the risks involved, Gilbert and Fores may need to go back to the drawing board if they want an MLS team.

[Detroit Free-Press]

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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