Doubts Raised Over Indy Eleven Stadium Legislation

Indy Eleven Eleven Park proposal

In the midst of a busy legislative session when it comes to sports facilities, a key Indiana lawmaker is expressing doubts about proposed Indy Eleven stadium legislation. 

Indy Eleven of Division II USL Championship recently unveiled a proposed new stadium that would be constructed as part of the larger Eleven Park development. Though a site has not been announced, the vision outlined by the club earlier this month calls for a new 20,000-seat, multi-purpose stadium that would be surrounded by private development, including roughly 150,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail, 600 apartment units, and a 200-room boutique hotel.

That marks the latest proposal from an organization that has long had MLS expansion aspirations, and has unsuccessfully sought public funding for new stadiums in the past. The current plan calls for the $150 million stadium to anchor a project that totals $550 million, with the mixed-use development privately financed and the stadium among the areas pitched for public funds. Earlier this month, Indiana senator Jack Sandlin introduced a bill that would designate a professional sports development area for the project, meaning that tax revenue generated within the area would go toward paying off debt from public funding sources.

Although some lawmakers are open to the idea, Indiana senator Ryan Mishler–the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee–has doubts about the plan. While willing to listen to the idea of adding the proposal to legislation that could yield funding for upgrades to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and other facilities, Mishler is not planning to give the current Indy Eleven stadium pitch a committee hearing. Specifically, he questions whether Ersal Ozdemir and Indy Eleven’s other investor can both secure an MLS expansion slot and follow through on a private development plan worth hundreds of millions of dollars. More from the Indianapolis Star:

He doesn’t plan to give the bill a hearing in his committee. He thinks Indy Eleven representatives will push to add that legislation, or very similar legislation, into his own bill. Mishler said he will listen, but at this point he’s not behind the effort.

Mishler said he’s concerned by two unknowns — whether Ozdemir can deliver on the half-billion dollar development and lure an MLS team to come here.

“When you are doing the Pacers or the Colts, they are a little more established,” he said. “With the stadium, you run the risk, there’s no guarantee you can get an MLS team. And that development is a pretty good size.”

He also pointed out passing legislation to keep the Pacers, fund an expansion to the convention center and add a soccer team is a lot for one session.

The current legislative session is shaping up to be a busy one, as the plans for Indy Eleven and separate facility upgrades anchored by Bankers Life Fieldhouse renovations will surely be debated. The proposal concerning Bankers Life Fieldhouse does come with some urgency, as the NBA’s Indiana Pacers are approaching the 2024 expiration of their lease agreement. Though the club has not made any noise about wanting a new arena or exploring a move elsewhere, officials still believe that renovations are vital to keeping the facility viable while securing a longer commitment from the Pacers.

Whether that ultimately takes precedence over any discussions surrounding Indy Eleven remains to be seen, but it is worth noting that the club has bolstered its slate of investors since the stadium plan was unveiled. Last week, the club announced that it expanded its ownership structure to include seven new investors, consisting of business and civic leaders from around Indiana.

Image courtesy Indy Eleven.

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