Indiana senate may actually be getting Indy Eleven to settle for $20m in stadium renovations

The Indiana state senate yesterday overwhelmingly passed its bill to spend $20 million on renovations to IUPUI’s stadium rather than spend $82 million on a new stadium for the minor-league NASL (but MLS expansion wannabe) Indy Eleven soccer team, and holy crap, it looks like Indy Eleven’s owners are actually going to go for it:

On Thursday, the team for the first time appeared to enthusiastically back the Senate version, rather than hold out for a new stadium. In a statement applauding the bill’s passage and looking ahead to the conference committee, the team made no mention of the original $82 million proposal.

“We are thrilled that the Senate’s vote today furthers our goal to secure a proper stadium for ‘the World’s Game’ and all of its passionate supporters from across Indiana,” said Peter Wilt, president and general manager of Indy Eleven.

Now, the senate bill still needs to be reconciled with the state house bill that approved the new $82 million building, so it’s still possible that Wilt’s statement left out the silent “Mwahahaha, foolish senate humans, we will say nice things about your bill while secretly planning to get the conference committee to split the difference and give us $50 million!” But that doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen, which would mean that this entire stadium shakedown would end with Indy Eleven accepting $20 million from ticket taxes (which come largely out of team owners’ pockets, since they limit how high they can raise ticket prices before pricing themselves out of the market) for some minor renovations, and agreeing to a 20-year lease (ironcladness yet to be determined) in the process.

That still may not be the ideal scenario — $20 million is still money, and the state of Indiana probably has other needs more pressing than upgrading a university football stadium — but it’s getting way closer to a price point where you can say, “Meh, that’s not too bad a price to pay to make some soccer fans happy.” So, and I never thought I’d say this, but props to the Indiana legislature for some tough negotiating. Would be nice if local officials would apply this bargaining ability to sports franchises other than minor-league soccer teams, but hey, baby steps.

3 comments on “Indiana senate may actually be getting Indy Eleven to settle for $20m in stadium renovations

  1. I’d be interested to see how much the Indy Eleven ownership is willing to chip in to make this a long term solution and not just a “stage one” of a much more ambitious renovation.

  2. Neil, Surprised you fell for the false reporting by the Indiana news media. The Senate actually amended the bill before final passage that allows the money to be spent either on a renovated Carroll Stadium or a successor stadium. I spoke to the sponsor of that amendment, Sen. Brandt Hershman, who acknowledged the intent of the amendment would allow Carroll Stadium to be razed and replaced by a new stadium with the track and field component relocated to another site on the IUPUI campus. Indy Eleven already has design plans drawn up that would replace Carroll Stadium with a soccer stadium running north and south instead of the currently-configured east-west direction. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is pretty much bought and paid for by Indy Eleven’s owner, Ersal Ozdemir. His former chief of staff works for him, and he’s already doled out tens of millions in public dollars to Ozdemir’s construction and real estate development companies. Ballard’s office has made clear the city plans to step up and put however much money is required into the stadium project. The CIB’s revenues and/or TIF revenues will be tapped for this purpose. The CIB is expected to wind up shouldering the costs of operating and maintaining the stadium, even though it will be owned by Indiana University.

  3. Is anyone sure that Ozdemir isn’t just accepting the $20m in renovations while he ‘waits’ for someone to build him the $82M stadium he actually wants?

    I wouldn’t be overly disappointed with a gift of $20m so long as one of the conditions isn’t that I stop demanding $82m as well…