At the height of the MLS expansion race in
2017, Indianapolis barely got a mention.
For good reason: Not for the first time, Indy Eleven was stymied in its efforts to get legislative support for plans for a new soccer stadium. The 2017 Indiana General Assembly came and went without any stadium legislation being presented.
Two years later, a new project is making progress -- if only MLS will listen.
A bill to help fund a 20,000-seat stadium passed Indiana's Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, but it is contingent on Indianapolis getting an MLS team, and with no concrete plans for MLS to expand beyond 28 teams, that remains a long shot.
Developer Ersal Ozdemir, owner of Indy Eleven, is pitching the stadium as the centerpiece of "Eleven Park," a development project that would also include 100,000 square feet of retail space, 150,000 square feet of office space, 600 apartments, a hotel, plus parking.
The "Eleven Park" price tag: $150 million for the stadium and $400 million for the rest of the development.
The bill that passed on Thursday is just the first step in the legislative process. It would create a special taxing district and allow Ozdemir's group to partially fund the project through bonds covered by the various taxes the development would generate.
A similar funding structure is contained in the bill to pay for renovations to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA Pacers, and other city projects and keep the NBA in Indianapolis beyond 2024 when the current lease expires.
The catches to the soccer stadium project:
-- Indy Eleven would have secure an MLS team;
-- It would have to secure a location for the project and win local approvals; and
-- It would have to pay for 20 percent of the cost for the stadium before gaining access to state money.
Indy Eleven played four seasons in the NASL before moving to the USL in 2018. It played at Carroll Stadium on IUPUI’s campus for the first four seasons but moved to Lucas Oil Stadium, the NFL Colts' home, in 2018.
Indy Eleven was third in attendance in the USL behind FC Cincinnati and Sac Republic FC in 2018 with an average of 10,163 fans a game. It was first in attendance in three of its four seasons in the NASL.
FC Cincinnati got an MLS expansion team, but Sac Republic FC is still waiting. St. Louis, another city that dropped out of contention early in 2017, has returned with with a revived stadium plan. Phoenix, Charlotte and Raleigh are all in various stages of structuring their proposals.
Rendering: Indy Eleven