When we last checked in with Indy Eleven‘s stadium demands, the Indiana state senate had just voted to approve giving $112 million worth of tax money to team owner Ersal Ozdemir toward a new $150 million stadium. There was one string attached, though: Ozdemir had to obtain an invite to have his USL team join MLS before the money could change hands.
Now an Indiana state house committee has proposed cutting that single string:
The Indiana House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously Monday to allow the soccer team to negotiate with Indianapolis to build a $150 million soccer stadium without first attracting a Major League Soccer franchise…
Todd Huston, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said the project may need to get started for MLS to take it seriously. Republicans and Democrats have increasingly emerged as united in the decision to create a way to make a deal happen.
“I think a lot of people see the excitement around the current team and see the momentum that soccer has in our society,” Huston said. “Our committee has felt like it’s an exciting new opportunity. There’s a general belief and excitement that professional soccer has got a lot of momentum and people want Indianapolis to be a part of it.”
Notwithstanding all that societal soccer momentum, this would be an awfully big gamble: MLS commissioner Don Garber hasn’t even mentioned Indianapolis on his short list for expansion, meaning Indiana could easily end up throwing $112 million at the promise of an MLS team and end up with the exact same USL team it has now. Unless the Indiana legislature figures that eventually MLS will just give expansion franchises to every city with a new stadium, which may well be true, but even then plenty of other cities have gotten MLS franchises on the “if you come, we will build it” plan, and the Indiana legislature doesn’t exactly have the best track record as a steward of the public purse, so I’m having a hard time giving them the benefit of the doubt.
The measure now goes to the full state house, and then to a house-senate conference committee, neither of which will have any obligation to pay attention to polls showing only 23% of central Indiana residents want their tax money spent on a soccer stadium at all.