Rock Ventures CEO Talks Soccer Stadium and Perception in Detroit

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Matt Cullen, CEO of Rock Ventures

Detroit is a great town for sports fans, even if the teams sometimes disappoint. One professional sport Detroit doesn’t have is soccer.

Detroit does have a semi-professional team in the Detroit Football Club, but businessman Dan Gilbert says he’d like to bring Major League Soccer to the city. A couple of weeks ago Gilbert unveiled a plan to build an arena on the site of the Wayne County Jail boondoggle. The announcement was the latest in a long list of investments Gilbert and his companies are involved with in Detroit.

As with most any project Gilbert is involved with, the MLS proposal came with criticism, this time in part for an artist rendering of the proposal that included few black people in a city with a predominantly black populous.

Aaron Foley at BLAC Magazine wrote:

Your first defense might be that black people don’t watch soccer (although I’d tell you to visit, oh, just about anywhere in Africa to debunk that) or your first defense might be that black people in Detroit don’t watch soccer, but my retort would be this: Shouldn’t a stadium built in Detroit be offered to everyone in Detroit? Wouldn’t an MLS franchise here undoubtedly spin off some after-school program, some kind of student athletic league or some kind of outreach program in the city that would either train up future players, attract future fans or both?

That’s a fair comment, that is important” says Matt Cullen, CEO of Rock Ventures, of criticism of the racial make-up of the renderings. Cullen says everyone involved with the many investment projects of Gilbert and Rock Ventures know that perception is everything in Detroit. He says it’s important for every decision to consider the people and history of the city. And he says he is proud of the employment record of Dan Gilbert’s companies, which hire people from throughout the city.

I’m really kind of proud that we’re providing a lot of opportunity,” he says. ”Collectively we have to be paying attention to inclusion.”

For the full conversation, click on the audio link above.

Image credit: Courtesy of Rossetti

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