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Indy Eleven hopes new stadium can continue soccer’s push into the mainstream

Indy Eleven rendering aerial close


Heading into just the second year of the team’s existence, Indy Eleven has the American soccer world buzzing about the potential of a brand new soccer-specific stadium.

Following a debut season that saw the club sell out every home game, Indy unveiled plans for an 18,500-seat stadium on Wednesday, as owner Ersal Ozdemir and president Peter Wilt look to continue to grow the game both locally and nationally.

“I think it’s a continuation of the support you’ve seen for soccer nationally, as well as locally,” Wilt told SBI. “You look at the facilities in Kansas City and Salt Lake City, which are markets not all that different than Indianapolis, and they’re sold out every game. You look at Houston and Portland, and similar sized venues again, that are sold out virtually every game. The sport has reached a tipping point in this country and it deserves a venue like this.

“Some people just haven’t caught on that there is a real shift in demographic in the United States, not just in unusual markets that might be ethnic-heavy or skewed young. Throughout the United States, the age wave has grown up that supports soccer that required a venue this size.”

The venue, which Ozdemir says will be used to host a variety of other sporting and entertainment events, would be funded by stadium revenue. With cost of living and construction fees currently below the national average, the cost of stadium construction is projected at just $82 million, well below the norm for stadiums in the U.S.

Overall, Ozdemir says the public response to the initial plan has been tremendous, as virtually everyone the owner has come in contact with has applauded the efforts and ambition of the club.

“We look at the responses we get, the public responses, and I don’t want to say 100 percent, but I believe that 99.9 percent, just in case there are people I don’t know, love the design and are excited,” Ozdemir told SBI. “It’s a unique design for the city and overall, so they’re excited.

“99.9, and I say 99.9 because I don’t want to underestimate a few people who don’t like it for some reason. For that purpose it’s been great and people will understand how this will be financed as we go through the process that has been done with the state and the city.”

That process, according to Wilt, began in 2013 when nearby Lucas Oil Stadium — home to the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts — hosted an international friendly between Chelsea and Inter Milan, drawing over 40,000 fans to watch a sport that in the past was seen as far from the mainstream. That game, which Wilt refers to as the first stage of the city’s “enlightenment,” opened the eyes of  fans, who then proceeded to fill each and every Indy Eleven home game at Michael Carroll Stadium, the team’s current home on a state university campus.

The Indy Eleven ownership group initially submitted a stadium proposal to state legislators last spring, before the club even played a match. Skeptical about potential attendance and revenue, the legislature failed to approve that plan, but the groundwork was established for this week’s proposal.

“Last year when we put the bill forward, we weren’t surprised,” Wilt said. “The surprise we had was that it got as far as it did, actually. It went pretty well, it was received well, but it ran out of time because of the short session.

“We went back at it this year and submitted the bill about three weeks ago with similar language to last year, and we understood through the discussions with the legislators that it is something that is going to evolve and work for everyone in Indiana.”

The current proposal, as Ozdemir sees it, could be a major landmark in inspiring other owners in lower-tier leagues to pursue stadiums in an effort to grow the game. Overall, the Indy Eleven owner sees the stadium experience as a key part of the game’s domestic development. More satisfied attendees, the thinking goes, will eventually result in more passionate fans of the sport.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of league it is, in the United States or somewhere else, the stadium is an important part of the experience. It doesn’t matter where and how and when you play, we’re looking for providing a great experience for everybody that comes to the venue. It doesn’t matter if they’re die-hard fans or if they’re casual fans or if they just want to check out a game.

“If they’re not a fan, they’ll become a fan after they leave. If they’re a casual fan, they’ll become a more loyal fan. If they’re a die-hard fan, we appreciate it and we’ll provide them with a quality venue to enjoy the game to the fullest.”

Wilt believes that a higher-quality venue will obviously lead to more interest in the team from both a player and fan perspective. As the field, and the players on it, continue to improve, the game will continue to grow in both the U.S. and Indianapolis.

“When people see Ersal’s vision for the future of the sport in Indianapolis, that again is really making an impact,” Wilt said. “This week, as much as an impact is made locally, I think nationally, you’ve seen a lot of people recognize what’s going on here in Indianapolis.

“I think it’s about time people recognize nationally that this isn’t just Indianapolis,” Wilt added. “It isn’t just Portland or Seattle. It’s not just Los Angeles or other particular markets. Soccer is now entering the mainstream phase in the United States and this project in Indianapolis is part of that.”


  1. Without promotion relegation SSS of this size in lower league markets are never going to work. Why build this when they have no chance of moving up? Not every team is going to be able to move up to MLS. It’s ridiculous.

    • Can’t people just want to have a team? Local pride and all that. If you give the people a nice place and a good experience they will come. MLS or not.

  2. It’s already been said Keystone can’t build it because of the conflict of interest. And no new taxes so only people and players will pay, and they are looking at how the shortfalls will be covered by the team, not taxpayers.

    Indy has built itself as a sports city and this stadium would fill a major hole in its stadium portfolio. A true outdoor venue that can seat a reasonable amount (15-25k). So a women’s team, state HS football and soccer championships, NCAA championships in I-AA football, soccer and lacrosse, and more can use it. Currently those opportunities don’t exist except at LOS which is too big for those and uses turf not grass.

    • Don’t know about the H.S. State Football Championships. 6 levels now and having six games over a two day period would just eat up the grass. The last game would be basically played on dirt.

      However, with the NCAA offices just down the street from pretty much every conceivable location downtown – our town SHOULD be able to host every national championship we can. We already have a world class venue that hosts the NCAA basketball finals, we can obviously host the NCAA FBS/ Playoff National Championship, the Superbowl, the Swimming and Diving championships (at IUPUI Natatorium), etc.etc.etc. Why not try for the NCAA FCS Championship that was played at Pizza Hut Park in Dallas/ FW this year? Why not try for the NCAA college soccer final four?

      It was back in the day (PAN-AM Games) that we were known as the home of Amateur Athletics in this country and our reputation as a sports city was built on it.

    • Yeah, what is that, a glass layer inside the wire? And who wants to bet that the lead contractor will be Keystone? He wants the taxpayers to pay him to build a stadium for his team? Nice work if you can get it. If it’s really only 82 million, which will be paid for by ticket revenue, why doesn’t the team just build it? Figure Ozdemir can write a check for ten million (might hurt, but investments, right? Surely the team could easily raise another ten in local private investment (seat licenses, box leases, naming rights) so with twenty down, raising sixty should be easy. Boom. And now you own the revenue, instead of the city. You own a construction company, go build something.

      • Gosh. I didn’t know it was that easy to come up with $82 million. So, since you’ve got all the answers, I assume you’re almost worth $100 million, right?

        C’mon chief – chill. You’re mad about $82 million? That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the other two Indy franchises recent building forays (Lucas Oil: $720 million; Bankers Life just got ANOTHER $160 million…and that wasn’t to build anything, the CIB just gave it to them).

        If you don’t like it, don’t go….then you don’t have to pay for it.

      • Maybe if you did research before slandering everything this stands for, you’d realize that Keystone would not construct this at all. they would not be able to bid on it. You really need to think things through and do research before you talk

  3. “Some people just haven’t caught on that there is a real shift in demographic in the United States, not just in unusual markets that might be ethnic-heavy or skewed young. Throughout the United States, the age wave has grown up that supports soccer that required a venue this size.”

    He gets it. The demographics of this country will sustainably support soccer going forward. It isn’t just Latino immigrants. It’s young people and it’s globalization. You can’t fight it.

    And that’s a beautiful stadium rendering. I don’t know much about Indy XI, but best of luck to them.

  4. So, bottom line; they want Mainstream League Soccer *wink* *wink* cause it sure beats Not A-mainstream Soccer League. *nod* *nod*

    • They are committed to growing the free and independant NASL, as are the Cosmos, Strikers, etc. The only NASL teams considering treason are Minneapolis and San Antonio.

      • The owners of Indy Eleven long term vision, is MLS. Even before starting in the NASL, their owners true vision, was MLS.The NASL was a place to grow slowly. The owners are still focus on joining MLS, like the majority of NASL teams are. Why wouldnt these teams want to join a league on the rise, attracing better player every year?The Cosmos are owned by foreign owners, who have no understanding of how the American soccer market works. They believed that their brand was strong enough, to challenge MLS. In the beginning they started out well, yet since that time, they attendance have continued to go down.

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