Indy Eleven President Hoping for New Soccer Stadium in the Future
Rendering of IUPUI's redesigned Carroll Stadium which will play host to the Indy Eleven in 2014 (photo courtesy Indy Eleven)
Indianapolis is getting a new pro soccer team in a few months, and if the team gets its way, the city will get a new stadium in the next few years.
Judging by deposits on season tickets, a lot of people are excited about the Indy Eleven's first season in the North American Soccer League next year. One of them is the mayor. "So many kids today who are now in their 20's and 30's grew up playing soccer, unlike me who grew up playing baseball, basketball and so forth," said Greg Ballard during a recent visit to WIBC, adding that the Indy Eleven fit with his vision of Indianapolis as a destination for sports that are popular around the world.
The team announced last week that it already has at least first deposits on all 7,000 season tickets it had planned on selling for its first season. The number seemed to catch even the team's front office off guard, since that covers most of the available seating at IUPUI's Carroll Stadium, where the Indy Eleven will play its home games. The stadium will hold around 11,000 fans after the team brings in some modular suites and rearranges current seating to bring fans closer to the field.
The team has made no secret of this from the beginning, but the brisk sale of season tickets has Indy Eleven President and General Manager Peter Wilt talking about the team having its own stadium in a few years. "We want to be part of the sports landscape and the culture of the community, be an asset to the city, the region and the state. Part of that is having your own facility," said Wilt.
The first question is where? The only possible site that is known right now is the former General Motors stamping plant west of downtown. Keystone Construction, which is owned by Indy Eleven owner Ersal Osdemir, is one of four bidders for the plant. It is currently held by a trust in Michigan which is expected to choose a bidder next spring. "Minimal," is how Mayor Ballard describes talk of a new stadium thus far between the soccer club and the city-county government. "Not even to the concept stage to be frank with you. Not even to the location."
The second question is would the bill for part or all of the stadium go to taxpayers, and what would the public think of Indy Eleven if it did? The mayor says he's open to the idea. "There probably is room for a 10,000 to 20,000-seat stadium somewhere that would make a lot of sense for the city. But we want to make sure it's for multiple sports and maybe concerts; so it would be a multi-use stadium, not just for soccer," Ballard said. The city technically already has an outdoor, multi-use stadium roughly the size of what the soccer team is talking about in Victory Field, though it is only rarely used for events other than baseball.
The soccer club has not asked for a soccer-specific stadium, though Wilt oversaw construction of one, paid for exclusively with taxpayer money, almost a decade ago while he was GM of the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer. For now, Wilt is focused only on kicking things off in less than five months. "It's one thing to sell out every game of the season. But it's another thing to give fans a good enough experience to want to come back," said Wilt.
Taxpayers will not pay for the improvements to IUPUI's stadium. "That would all be the responsibility of the Indy Eleven, and we have had very productive discussions with them as we've worked through all these issues," said Tom Morrison, Vice President for Capital Planning for the IU system.