40,000 plus fans, global media throng to attend soccer game at Lucas Oil Stadium

July 31, 2013
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Thursday's soccer game between two of Europe's most powerful teams at Lucas Oil Stadium is expected to draw a crowd of more than 40,000 fans and 154 credentialed media members from five countries.

The game is part of the International Champions Cup, which includes games in five U.S. cities; Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, New York and Indianapolis.

The selection of Indianapolis to host such a high-level European soccer match may seem an odd choice, but officials for New York-based Relevent Sports, the U.S. promoter of the event, were impressed by officials for Indy Eleven, Indianapolis' new North American Soccer League franchise, as well as leaders from Indiana Sports Corp. and Visit Indy, the city's tourism marketing arm.

"Relevent Sports was very impressed with the sports organizations we have here in Indianapolis and the momentum we're building for soccer in this city and state," said Indy Eleven General Manager Peter Wilt.

Relevent Sports officials were also impressed by the hosting job the city did with the 2012 Super Bowl and NCAA Final Fours, Wilt added.

The momentum created earlier this year by Wilt and Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir when they announced the formation of the local professional team is getting a boost by Thursday's game pitting England's top team, Chelsea against Italy's top team, Inter.

Indy Eleven officials offered its season ticket holders first choice of the best seats for Thursday's game, and that offer sparked the sale of 620 new season ticket packages, Wilt said, adding that the team which kicks off in the 2014 NASL season, has now sold 4,540 season ticket packages.

Wilt thinks brisk game-day ticket sales for Thursday's game could push attendance higher than projected. Wilt and Relevent Sports officials declined to say exactly how many tickets have been sold or what the projected attendance is. Lucas Oil Stadium is configured to seat about 61,000 for the soccer game and stadium officials will determine by Thursday afternoon if the roof will be open for the event, which begins at 8 p.m.

The weather forcast looks promising for an open roof unless stadium officials deem it too hot. Stadium officials ususally like it to be under 80 degrees when the roof is open. Either way, Wilt expects a raucous crowd.

"Ticket sales this week have gone crazy," Wilt said. "We've sold out a couple of categories. It likely won't be sold out, but it will be pretty full. And I expect the atmosphere to be very energized, with some people stadning the entire game, singing and waving their arms and banners. If you've never seen a big-time soccer game, the atmosphere is really something to experience."

Ticket prices for the game range from $30 to $250. Wilt said Indy Eleven has taken "a significant [financial] stake in the game," but declined to say how much that is. He emphasized the franchise's involvement isn't about the bottom line.

"Our idea is not to make money from this event, it's to build the sport of soccer here in Indiana and for Indy Eleven as we approach our inagural season," Wilt said.

Although promoters aren't yet divulging where ticket buyers are coming from, Wilt said "thousands of them will be coming from outside the area." Numerous ticket buyers are coming in from Chicago; St. Louis; Louisville; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, Wilt said, adding, "there are also a good number of people coming in from London and various parts of Italy."

Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops said the game will be beneficial to Indianapolis in two ways. The first is the local economic impact. Conservatively, sports business experts said, Thursday's game will have a $5 million to $8 million economic impact on Indianapolis.

"The second, and perhaps even more impactful, is the television coverage in more than 150 countries for this game, putting Indy on an international stage in front of millions of viewers," Hoops said.

Those watching the game should expect all-out soccer, Wilt said.

"This is no exhibition game," Wilt said. "Many of these teams use these games to set their rosters for the next season, so there's a lot of motivaton for these guys to play hard."

  • Yawn
    They've been telling us for 30 years how fast soccer is growing in the US. Face it, its never going to be more than a novelty for anyone other than a small group of soccer enthusists and European expats. I am however looking forward to the first professional cricket match here in Indy (note sarcasm).
    • Simple minded
      Billy, rec leagues have tripled and beginning to develop academies similar to those in Europe. Professional leagues such as NASL & MLS are gaining momentum. NBC is broadcasting soccer. The US Team has won 11 games in a row and moved ahead of Mexico in the world rankings. My personal opinion - its a sophisticated, beautiful sport when played well and is bigger than your simple mind can imagine. And that's okay, but just because you don't understand, it doesn't mean the sport isn't growing.
    • Soccer Deniers
      The sport is growing, and its started to accelerate with the television coverage that the World Cup, MLS, and now the EPL full season will be getting on NBC this fall. Millions of kids already play the game and the global exposure they are getting will start to push some of the talented athletes to professional soccer careers instead of Football or Basketball. It really doesn't matter if some people get it or not... look at the ramp up of the money that domestic networks are starting to devote to the sport. They know something that comes from the numbers they are seeing on their spreadsheets, the game is growing and its time to get in now.
    • Soccer is already here
      I don't know why people waste their breath talking about how soccer will never take off in the US. It already has - ESPN research found that professional soccer is the 2nd most popular sport to watch in the US among those 12-24 years old. A few MLS teams, which is considered low class, are even pulling in more fans than the MLB teams in their cities. Yep, just a fad.
    • Soccer growth and good local ownership
      I agree, the numbers speak for themselves. Soccer in the U.S. truly is taking off. All that is needed for pro soccer to take off now in Indianapolis, is a strong team owner. And for the very first time, a pro soccer team here has that strong owner in Ersal Ozdemir. You may not agree with everything he does, but you have to admit Ozdemir is finally a guy with the clout to make a pro soccer team really successful here. I think people will be amazed in 18 to 24 months what the Indy Eleven turn into. There is most definitely a pent up demand.
      Did anyone see what the Columbus Crew SOLD for? You tell me there isn't money to be made in professional soccer? Indy Eleven is an excellent addition to the sports landscape of Indiana. The MLS is planning expanding to add 4 more teams by 2020. I am telling you, you are welcome to dislike all you want. I am season ticket holder for the Colts, went to both Super Bowls, and I am just as genuinely excited for Indy Eleven to start up! Andrew Luck is a soccer fan, for goodness sakes. His dad ran the Houston Dynamo. Do not be so ignorant to smash the sport just because you don't know it or understand it. I don't understand Cricket, but I don't waste my energy bashing it.
      • a point of note
        FYI, while Chelsea and Inter are no doubt world famous and 2 of the probably 12 biggest teams in the world (and I'm thrilled to watch them here in Indy), they are not the top team in either of their countries. In England, that would be 20-time Champion Manchester United! They've only won 5 of the last 7 league championships!
      • Futbol, futbol
        "Futbol, futbol been bery bery boring to me." Said 90% of Americans. Billy - I did note your sarcasm regarding Cricket but I would actually watch a Cricket match, or a Rugby match, or an Australian Rules football match, or an indoor soccer match, just not a traditional soccer match. Please. To the tune of that Wham! hit: ♪Wake me up, when it is over♪
      • Luck
        Love that Andrew Luck is a Gunner. If only Arsenal could get out from under that ridiculous ownership situation they are dealing with.
      • Ticket prices too high
        I am pleased that they are getting a big crowd, but I think they could have approached a sellout with lower prices in this market. This is just an exhibition. A casual fan, or someone who is just curious, is not going to fork out $30 to $250 to watch this.
        • Totally Agree
          If the organizers were able to sell tickets for that much, more power to them. However, the prices are too much for me to justify as someone with a casual interest in soccer at this point. I never saw $30 tickets for sale to the public. For me and my two sons to sit in nosebleed seats via Ticketmaster, the cost was going to be $175. IMO, that's a lot of money for crummy seats.
        • Soccer =$$$
          The most lucrative sports teams in the world are soccer teams, leaving the Yankees and NFL teams in the dust. Teams like Chelsea and Internationale are world brands, each followed by supporters around the world who fork over big bucks. Hence, viewers in 150 countries will be watching what is just a warm-up match. US entrepreneurs are wise to invest in the world game, a currency respected everywhere. The IBJ is wise to report on the sport in Indy, which, if well-managed, can be a big money-maker.
        • No way
          Soccer is a great sport and very exciting, but there were 22K in San Francisco last night and SF is a global city. No way Indy draws that much unless there were tens of thousands of free tickets.Sorry, soccer fans, but futbol has a long way to go in America.
          • To "A Realist"
            Ummmmm sounds like 42,000 people showed up tonight. You want to post a follow-up comment "Realist?" Maybe someday we'll be a "global city" like SF until then we'll be Indy. :)
          • Really?
            From the photographs that I saw there were not nearly 40,000 people at the game. The place looked to be maybe 25% full.
          • Really?
            Really, Harvey? What purpose do your inflammatory comments really serve? What pictures are you referring to? Because I was THERE and can assure you that the place was WAY more than 25% full. The 42,000 number seems perfectly reasonable to this person who was actually in a SEAT at the stadium instead of looking at "photos".
          • Attendance numbers
            When stadiums announce official attendance numbers it is never a "butts in the seats" number, but a ticket sold number. If you look at some of the Pacer attendance numbers when they were really bad and begging people to show up, they were always higher than the people that actually showed up. They would announce attendance numbers that were higher than what the lower section could hold yet they were inviting people from the upper level down to the lower level. How could that be? You have to remember there were a lot of corporate tickets sold for this event and not every ticket is given out in those cases so the actual attendance will always be different than the "butts in the seats" number. There isn't a stadium that will ever announce that number.
          • Hey Billy Bob!
            You NASCAR fans are a gas and a backwards lot. Sorry to inform you but Soccer is growing by leaps and bounds in the USA. Young people under 35 have been watching more soccer (EPL,MLS,World Cup) than ever before. NBC just payed 250 million for TV rights to the EPL. LOL!!!! Indiana is full of narrow minded people like you, but fortunately their are educated people in Indiana too!

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          1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

          2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

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