Design & Development

Indianapolis to pursue MLS franchise, new stadium planned

Mayor Joe Hogsett

Featured image credit: City of Indianapolis

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has announced plans to pursue a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team that would play at a new downtown stadium, news that casts doubt over an existing project for USL Championship club Indy Eleven.

At a press conference yesterday (Thursday), Hogsett stated that his team has submitted a proposal to the Metropolitan Development Commission for the creation of a new professional sports development area that would include a soccer stadium in Downtown Indianapolis near the Downtown Transit Center.

The proposal also includes a prospective ownership group and mechanism for public funding, although precise details behind that were not disclosed. An ownership group including investors led by an unidentified “experienced sports executive” is forming to help pay the club’s franchise fee, according to city officials.

The Athletic reports that the executive in question is Tom Glick, who departed Premier League club Chelsea in November. Chelsea confirmed in May that its president of business operations would step down from his role to pursue other opportunities.

Glick was previously president of Tepper Sports & Entertainment, owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and MLS team Charlotte FC. Prior to that, he was president of New York City FC and chief commercial officer of Manchester City.

Hogsett said that he flew to New York on Monday to discuss a potential expansion team with MLS commissioner Don Garber. He added: “Indianapolis has long been a marquee destination for professional and amateur sports.

“A significant part of this collective success stems from our history of local and state collaboration, the ability to articulate a common vision and a corporate and community commitment to seeing the city’s teams succeed.”

The Indianapolis Star said the new Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA) would be an alternative to the one already established for Eleven Park and Indy Eleven. The USL outfit has previously been part of MLS expansion efforts in 2017 and 2019, but Hogsett believes the city is now in a stronger position to succeed.

He added: “I am well aware that this new venture presents no guarantee, but every great achievement in our city’s history has begun where opportunity was met with action.”

In February 2023, Indy Eleven unveiled the first renderings for Eleven Park, a new $1bn (£799.9m/€933.5m) neighbourhood development project that is due to be anchored by a 20,000-seat multi-purpose stadium.

The stadium has been designed by Populous, with Browning Day serving as the architect of record. The project broke ground in May 2023.

Indy Eleven is working with local construction, development, management, and investments company Keystone Group on the project. The first renderings were released after the club acquired over 20 acres of land in downtown Indianapolis in June 2022.

Keystone Group has criticised Hogsett’s administration for seeking to back away from the Eleven Park project. The Star claims city officials believe there was never a deal in place with Keystone and Indy Eleven, only talks. It is said to have been determined that the existing professional sports development area would not generate enough revenue to cover the funding gap for the Eleven Park stadium.

Keystone, meanwhile, has accused Hogsett’s negotiation team of “shopping state legislation championed by Indy Eleven, working behind closed doors to offer publicly-owned real estate and public financing to the highest bidder, with assurances that neither the redevelopment of this riverfront parcel nor the continuation of the Indy Eleven as a team would be requirements for city support.”

It added: “This is more than disappointing – it’s a shocking reversal of Mayor Hogsett’s public support for this project at the 2023 groundbreaking, for the dozens of local investors in this team, the thousands of Marion County jobs committed by Indiana companies who have been working on this project, and the tens of thousands of Indy Eleven fans in Indiana and across the country.”