Stadium for Indiana: Alive

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Stadium for Indiana was the first substantial movement that Indy Eleven has gotten as a club in securing a soccer specific stadium in Downtown Indianapolis. While the bill itself never made it to an official vote, what came from it was a large amount of support along with a tremendous amount of oppression in terms of how the funds for the stadium will be secured and the level at which the club plays. Only having played a season before the bill was being pushed through the political members who questioned the stadium did so with both a paradox of confusion as well as laying down standards the club would have to meet in order have the discussion be taken serious.

Stadium for Indiana is still alive

There were a number of issues with the funding that were presented that both were logical (in reference to attendance numbers) as well as some not so logical (the professional level of the North American Soccer League)

Let’s rule out the first thing. When a soccer specific stadium comes to Indiana, it will be in downtown Indianapolis. There is no reason it will ever be outside of Indianapolis nor should it ever be outside of it which was confirmed by President Peter Wilt in an interview with Indystar. “I don’t believe that’s in the best long-term interest for Indianapolis, Indiana or for Indy Eleven,” team President Peter Wilt said of a suburban location. “You never rule anything out, but this project wasn’t just about Indy Eleven. It’s about the community at large and having a strong Downtown Indianapolis.” Indy Eleven has made a point in sticking in the market and the stadium being in the downtown Indianapolis area.

Those against the bill questioned the level of play of the North American Soccer League. Many of the opponents of the funding said that because NASL isn’t MLS (some calling NASL a “minor league” soccer league) that the stadium isn’t good enough for the league. In a piece from WISH TV, the local CW Affiliate, MLS President and Major Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbot said a stadium is needed for MLS bid consideration. “It’s absolutely critical. We set out as a requirement for expansion that we have a new facility in the markets that we select,” Abbott said. “It’s important for our fans. They want to be able to watch games in the sort of professional facilities, same sort of amenities that they see for all the other professional sports. It’s critical from a business perspective and it’s a strict requirement for the league when we’re evaluating expansion opportunities.” Since the initial bill was being processed, North American Soccer League has announced new teams in Miami and Puerto Rico with mentions of an eventual move out west becoming more evident in the future. NASL’s place in America’s soccer market has steadily improved since the initial bill.

Attendance was also a large factor. Many opponents of the bill didn’t believe that Indy Eleven could repeat their success from year one in regards to their entire home schedule being a sellout. The proposed stadium would have 18,000 seats which is around a 7,500 seat jump from the current fixture with Michael A. Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI.

According to Kenn.com, Indy Eleven has only ticked down slightly from the season-long home sellout and have been averaging 10,000. With a stadium, and an enclosed more permanent (And prominent) structure in Downtown Indianapolis the perceived perception of value of both Indy Eleven and NASL as a league will go up in the market. While Michael A. Carroll stadium still maintains a large millennial demographic with a growing family population the stigma of Indy Eleven being either a minor league team and or a minor league team in a minor soccer league can still hurt their success. A larger stadium can eliminate the families worried about the shape of Michael A. Carroll stadium , eliminates the non-paying customers from parking at the top of the nearby parking garage and watching the game, and will increase awareness of the team in the market.

Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done. This past house session provided a huge leap as the third time Indy has pushed for the funding and it most certainly won’t be the last. The issue of funding will be a large sticking point. The bill would call for the state to help fund the team the money for the stadium and Indy Eleven would repay the state taxes  “by those who use it.” Between taxes on tickets, food, merchandise, as well as income from Erzal Ozdemir’s downtown Indianapolis hotel which would be open along with the stadium. Obviously the fear (since the launch of Lucas Oil Stadium) was how much of the cost would eventually fall to tax payers as a result of unforeseeable failure from the taxes.

Indy Eleven continues to push the quality of the team up as well as the level of play with home-star like Zach Steinberger joining the team on loan while also having players like Sergio Pena and Jose Kleberson on the roster. There is no question that Indy Eleven are here to establish a lasting foundation in Indiana as well as the soccer market. A stadium would provide a huge step in a team that has coined the philosophy of “MLS Quality on an NASL budget.” Along with the increased quality of Indy Eleven the plan to bring a National Women’s Soccer League team, US Men’s and Women’s friendlies, as well as other events that the stadium could support would bring more income to the area as well as the stadium.

The goal of a stadium might eventually lead to a bid to join Major League Soccer but for now Indy Eleven as a whole wants to bring the best quality of play to the market and help build the reputation of the North American Soccer League. While they have done that since joining the league and continue to do so meeting all roadblocks set by those against the stadium funding the next move for the franchise in order to grow needs to be a stadium.

One path that hasn’t (publically) been considered is bringing in another owner or finding a title sponsor to help finance the stadium.  Recently the NBA Franchise in Indiana, the Pacers, gained sponsorship from St. Vincent hospitals. While the details of the agreement financially weren’t disclosed, the reports were clear that St. Vincent would help fund the team’s new training facility that hits 50 million dollars in cost and will open in 2017.

There are plenty of options available to Indy Eleven. From public money which is increasingly becoming less popular of an option for sports teams country wide to privately funding it in its entirety which is seemingly the eventual course of action they will need to take. Regardless, as far as year two goes Indy Eleven has met all of the goals the opponents have set for a soccer specific stadium in Indianapolis and the future looks bright for the eventual progress a soccer specific stadium will make in Indianapolis.