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Soccer team seeks state help for $87M downtown stadium

January 24, 2014
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The Indy Eleven professional soccer team wants state assistance to help it build an 18,500-seat, multi-purpose stadium in downtown Indianapolis with a projected construction cost of $87 million.

Lobbyists are trying to find a lawmaker willing to shepherd a bill that would allow the team to capture ticket-tax revenue, plus sales taxes and state and local income taxes, to help it finance the project.

The team is asking fans to contact their legislators and express their support for the idea, and the topic already has sparked a lively debate on Twitter.

WNDE-AM radio host Jake Query said he bought season tickets for the inaugural season, which starts in April at IUPUI’s Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium. “But starting ‘public funding for new stadium’ chat before playing a game is the wrong approach.”

The team’s response on Twitter: “No handouts wanted! Project would be paid for by club and other users of the building through revenue generated by its use.”

Indy Eleven owner and real estate developer Ersal Ozdemir said Friday morning that he thinks the team could generate $8.8 million a year in tax revenue, but said he would ask for just $5 million a year to finance the facility.

Ozdemir considers the admission tax to be the team’s contribution toward the cost of the project because those fees drive up the price of tickets.

“We’re just asking for the money we’re going to create,” Ozdemir said.

Ozdemir said he has no qualms about pursuing a stadium before the team even has established an attendance track record. “We exceeded all the expectations, including my personal expectations, frankly,” he said, referring to early ticket commitments.

Launched just one year ago, the team has received deposits for 7,000 season tickets, and Ozdemir thinks it will sell out every home game. He said he’s trying to squeeze as much seating into Carroll Stadium as possible to hold close to 11,000 fans.

Ozdemir said he studied the possibility of using Lucas Oil Stadium early on but found there are too many scheduling conflicts.

Faegre Baker Daniels partner Murray Clark, a former state Republican party chairman, is heading up the Indy Eleven lobbying effort. He said most of the debt service on the stadium could be covered by the admissions tax, but the financing plan also would require the sales and income-tax revenue that’s captured in the downtown Professional Sports Development Area.

The Legislature would have to change the definition of the PSDA so that it could include the future stadium site, Clark said. Ozdemir’s development company is pursuing the former GM stamping plant site west of the White River, but that is just one of several possibilities, all of which are in or near downtown.

The stadium proposal would have to be amended to an existing bill, and because of the fiscal impact, it most likely would be routed through the House Ways and Means Committee. Clark said he hasn’t yet identified a bill or sponsor.

It’s not clear whether Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown would give the bill a hearing. Brown, a Republican from Crawfordsville, could not be reached for comment.

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