‘Transformational’ soccer stadium plan revealed for Indianapolis

The long-term Major League Soccer (MLS) ambitions of United Soccer League (USL) club Indy Eleven have been furthered by the unveiling of a $550m (£432.1m/€477.3m) development that will be underpinned by a 20,000-seat multi-purpose stadium.

Eleven Park was launched yesterday (Thursday) by Keystone Group, an Indianapolis-based real estate development, construction and investment company. Along with the new home for Indy Eleven, the development is expected to include 150,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail, 600 apartment units, and a 200-room boutique hotel.

“This is more than a stadium,” said Ersal Ozdemir, CEO of Keystone Group and owner of Indy Eleven. “It is the opportunity to create a vibrant community that will attract individuals and families from near and far to live, work and play.

“Soccer is the globe’s most popular sport and the world’s game needs a permanent home in our state. By paving the way for a world-class soccer facility as part of this transformational development, Indiana can fully capture a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure the future of soccer in its capital city.”

Indy Eleven currently plays at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of NFL American football franchise the Indianapolis Colts. The club has an agreement that can be extended on an annual basis, but has been seeking a home of its own with the 67,000-seat stadium deemed too large for its needs.

Indy Eleven has failed with two previous stadium efforts, the latter of which did not receive backing before the end of the 2017 legislative session, ultimately scuppering a bid to become a MLS expansion franchise. However, there are signs that the new project, which has been handed a targeted opening date in 2022, may be received more warmly.

In a written statement to the Indianapolis Star newspaper, Mayor Joe Hogsett’s deputy chief of staff Taylor Schaffer said the city remains interested in the possibilities. She added that before, the city will work with the Capital Improvement Board (CIB) and state partners to assess the proposal.

“Indianapolis is a proud sports city, and it is clear that professional soccer has a bright future here and across the country,” the statement read. “Indy Eleven has continued to update the city on their work to construct a permanent home for their team, and we are encouraged by their current focus on a taxpayer-friendly strategy that is backed by private development.”

State Senator Jim Merritt, a Republican who yesterday announced he would run for Mayor of Indianapolis, also gave his backing to the project. Meanwhile, CIB president Melina Kennedy said: “The CIB generally supports the Eleven Park concept as a creative, developer-backed initiative and will look forward to future discussions with Indy Eleven about how best to integrate this work into the CIB’s long-term vision.”

In conjunction with the Eleven Park announcement, plans were announced to work with state legislators to provide a mechanism for the development group, the City of Indianapolis, and the CIB to work together to help finance the stadium.

Eleven Park has proposed to privately develop and finance the office, retail, apartment and boutique hotel portions of the project. Taxes that are generated on the property as a result of the private development are proposed to be used to help finance the stadium and public areas which are proposed to be owned by the CIB and financed by the City of Indianapolis by developer backed bonds.

Indy Eleven is proposing to lease the stadium and pay all operating expenses as well as any cost overruns, creating no risk or exposure for the taxpayer. The location of the development has yet to be determined, but the Star said the current financial breakdown for the project includes approximately $400m in private investment and around $150m related to the stadium, public plazas and infrastructure to be financed through a public-private partnership.

Ozdemir added: “Eleven Park is not asking for a penny in appropriations from the city or state governments and instead we would work to create this stadium as a community asset using a public private partnership.”

Images: Indy Eleven