Indy Eleven's Quest for $87M Soccer Stadium Still Kicking

Image The Indy Eleven’s quest for funding for an $87 million downtown soccer stadium will resume Thursday, with Rep. Todd Huston, a Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, expected to submit a bill with a funding measure for the facility. Team officials expect the bill to get a hearing by the House Ways and Means Committee sometime in mid- to late January. If the measure is passed by this year’s General Assembly, Indy Eleven officials believe they could be playing in the stadium as soon as 2017.

Last year, Eleven officials made their initial pitch for an 18,500-seat stadium. That measure was modified and passed by the House but tabled by the Senate, so state lawmakers could see how the team did in its first year.

The soccer club in 2014 was the runaway attendance leader in the 10-team North American Soccer League, posting an average of 10,465 tickets sold per contest for 14 home games.

Team officials say those games represented sellouts at IUPUI’s track and soccer stadium, and that they would draw more fans to a new and more centrally located stadium with better concession stands, bathrooms and other amenities.

“I think we demonstrated there’s a need and a void in the market by selling out every game we had,” said Indy Eleven General Manager Peter Wilt.

Through Huston's bill, Indy Eleven again will propose that the stadium be owned by the city’s Capital Improvement Board and that money from a 10-percent ticket tax will be used to pay off bonds to pay for the facility. Tickets to events at all CIB-owned sports venues are subject to a 10-percent ticket tax.

There was some debate last year over whether the ticket tax would be enough to generate the money needed to pay for the stadium.
 
Paul Okeson, vice president for Keystone Group, said the calculations were made by projecting ticket revenue from Eleven and non-Eleven events that would be held at the new stadium. Keystone Group, a real estate development firm, is owned by Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir.

“Our proposal is one where if you don’t go [to the new stadium], you don’t pay,” Okeson said. “We’re not just talking about Indy Eleven games. There are plans to bring a lot of other events to this venue.”

Eleven officials hired a locally based consulting firm to analyze ticket revenue potential for the new stadium, Okeson said, and what that would mean in terms of money generated from a 10-percent ticket tax.

“This isn’t just me, Ersal and Peter putting numbers on a piece of paper,” he said.

Eleven officials say they still need to secure a spot for the stadium. Ten acres would be needed for the stadium alone, and more for parking, Wilt said.

Ozdemir last year bid to redevelop the former site of the General Motors stamping plant on the southwest edge of downtown, raising speculation that he would try to put the stadium on the parcel amid a mixed-use development. REI Investments was chosen to develop a $40 million outdoor concert venue on a piece of the former stamping plant grounds, and the city decided to build a new criminal justice center on another portion of the site.

That leaves Ozdemir to find a new site for the proposed soccer stadium.

“There are multiple potential locations on the table,” said Wilt, declining to be more specific. “They’re all in downtown Indianapolis.”
(Anthony Schoettle, http://www.ibj.com)

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