Minor-league soccer team that hasn’t started play yet already wants a state-funded stadium upgrade

It’s official: Every single minor-league soccer team in North America now has a plan for joining MLS by getting a new stadium built. The latest candidate: The Indy Eleven, a team in the third-tier minor-league NASL that hasn’t even played its first game yet, but whose owner Ersal Ozdemir said Friday that it could totally join MLS if only it had an $87 million, 18,500-seat stadium.

And who’s going to pay for it?

Ersal Ozdemir said Friday night that he understands why Indianapolis taxpayers wouldn’t want to pay for yet another sports venue.

“I totally get that. People are just tired of that,” said Ozdemir, a local real estate developer. “Because of that, really, we were being very thoughtful of that.”

Right. And who’s going to pay for it?

Lobbyists are trying to find a lawmaker willing to shepherd a bill that would allow the team to capture ticket-tax revenue, plus sales taxes and state and local income taxes, to help it finance the project.

So by “very thoughtful,” Ozdemir meant “we’re still going to use tax dollars, but we’ll be thoughtful about actually coming clean to the public about this.” (He told the Indianapolis Star that, in their words, “debt for stadium construction could be paid off by accruing taxes from the downtown Professional Sports Development Area,” aka a TIF, aka developers’ favorite confusing hidden tax subsidy.) Though at least that’s more thought than he put into coming up with the team name.

11 comments on “Minor-league soccer team that hasn’t started play yet already wants a state-funded stadium upgrade

  1. Is this what the MLS expansion rush has come to? I mean, even Orlando City waited until after the end of their first season to start begging for a stadium handout.

  2. Kei, it’s not so much the MLS expansion rush as it is every D2, D3 and “D4” (there isn’t actually a de jure D4 level yet) claiming they’re making the move up to MLS as part of their introductory statements. Problem is these lower level teams then paint themselves into a corner where their current league, NASL, USL Pro, USL PDL/NPSL isn’t their final landing place as part of their marketing their team now. They have no choice then but to try and move up by any means necessary. You’ve seen it all over D2-4 in the last 2 years in particular. Every team that joins those leagues have aspirations to move up to MLS some day soon. Yet fact is most don’t have the resources to make it work, so like Indy they start begging for handouts to cover their shortfall.

  3. Ryan: Thanks for the correction — I’d misremembered the outcome of the USL-NASL kerfuffle.

  4. Neil, while that may be the “official” sanctioning for now the dust hasn’t yet settled on that kerfuffle. Not with USL Pro now getting the affiliation set up in the common year with MLS akin to MiLB or the AHL/ECHL. The potential exists for yet another upheaval with NASL now bracketed on the soccer pyramid by MLS and MLS affiliates.

  5. $87m? Really?

    It seems to me it’s been a while since anyone built a “modern” MLS stadium (with all those expensive amenities that paying fans demand that non-paying fans donate tax dollars for) for anything close to that. As I recall, RSL’s facility was around $115m… but that was nearly a decade ago. Toronto’s doesn’t really count as it’s facility was essentially built for the U-20 world cup (and looks like publicly funded stadiums used to… lots of bare concrete, cheap seating and a flat area with something to play sports on).

    It seems likely that the owner would need nearly double that amount to build a stadium that MLS might consider to house a team in.

  6. The Indy Eleven may have a bright future in Indy. I do know that there is a lot of support for this new franchise in the Bloomington / Bedford area. The team’s request is more about an investment from the state, instead of a tax or a handout. This is about economic development in an area that can use it. The demographics are also in place as soccer becomes more popular by the year. Lastly, this could be the next step to joining Major league Soccer. With teams in Chicago and Columbus, Indy would be the catalyst in creating local rivalries for all three teams.

  7. Come on Boyd, what’s the difference between an “investment by the state” and a handout? Does the state of Indiana stand to actually make a profit? And if so, why is there no private entity interested in making a profit?

  8. I invite everyone to read the comments on the IBJ article. Indianapolis is firmly AGAINST this.

  9. Pretty much, you could add my city to the list but it is so early that they are just saying the plan to have a stadium of a certain size with zero mention of an expected price or where the funds are even trying to be acquired from