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.