Team owner pitches lawmakers on soccer stadium

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Soccer team owner Ersal Ozdemir made his pitch for an $87 million, state-financed stadium to a friendly audience of lawmakers Thursday.

Several members of the House Ways and Means Committee thanked Ozdemir for investing in the North American Soccer League franchise Indy Eleven, which begins its inaugural season in April. While members had questions about the proposed financing of the 18,500-seat venue, they did not question its impact on other taxpayer-supported venues downtown.

No one from the Capital Improvement Board, which would take ownership of the proposed stadium and be responsible for its bond payments, testified at the hearing. Indy Eleven initially will play at IUPUI's Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium.

Rep. Steve Braun, R-Zionsville, said he was convinced there was plenty of support for professional soccer, and that he liked the idea of building another downtown venue.

“We really have a gap in our downtown facilities,” he said. “What we don’t have is an outdoor stadium of this size.”

Representatives of the Indiana Sports Corp., which promotes Indianapolis as a host for major sporting events, and the NCAA testified on behalf of Ozdemir’s proposal. Jeff Jarnecke, director of championships and alliances at the Indianapolis-based NCAA, said the multipurpose stadium that Ozdemir is proposing could host college-level field hockey, lacrosse, soccer and football.

“So we could wrestle Division III football away from Salem, Virginia, in that stadium that looks like it was built before the Civil War?” Committee Chairman Tim Brown asked.

Ozdemir said the venue also could host concerts, something that might put it in competition with Bankers Life Fieldhouse, said Mark Rosentraub, co-director of the Michigan Center for Sport Management at the University of Michigan, in an interview Friday.

“The Midwest right now is a very competitive market in terms of the supply of venues that can host events,” Rosentraub said. There are only so many touring acts each year, he said, and Indianapolis is competing with Louisville, Columbus and Cincinnati, all of which have venues similar to Bankers Life.

The Indiana Pacers will receive $11 million from the Capital Improvement Board this year to offset operating losses at the Fieldhouse. Another subsidy could be in the works, as the CIB is negotiating a long-term contract to keep the team in Indianapolis.

Ozdemir projects that the soccer stadium would generate $5.1 million a year in ticket-tax revenue, plus $4.1 million in sales and income taxes. He’s asking the Legislature to allow for the capture of $5 million of that revenue—money that wouldn't be generated if there were no soccer team—to back the stadium's bond payments.

The committee didn’t take a vote, but the proposal will be up for discussion again next week. Brown is looking to amend it to Senate Bill 308, which deals with Allen County’s professional sports development area.


  • RE: Dingo
    Dingo, thank you for posting that link. As I have said from the beginning, the numbers do not add up!! When will the media and lawmakers question the $5 million in ticket tax revenue lie????? I'm guessing never.
  • #'s don't add up...
  • Just one word...
    "Luge." Let that roll off your tongue. "Ll-ll-lu-uu-ujjjjjjjjjjj..." If that doesn't make you want to invest into a world-class sport facility, then I have no faith in Indianapolis visionaries.
  • Attendance
    If this stadium is the bring an ROI, it is going to come from other events. Soccer attendance over time will come nowhere close to the 18k capacity, more than likely. A simple search of MLS attendance will tell you that. - Columbus Crew- avg 16,080 - Chicago Fire - avg 15,228 - Colorado Rapids - avg 15,440 List goes on and on. Almost all MLS teams avg. less than 20k. The Indy Eleven are a MINOR LEAGUE team. Over time, the realistic avg. attendance will be in the 5-10k range, with 10k being a huge win. The key to this project will be the other events that can be attracted - NCAA Soccer, concerts, football, etc.. Anyone trying to sell this project on the Indy Eleven regularly filling up this stadium does not know what they are talking about. While I would like for that to happen, I do not believe it is realistic.
  • Govt finance 101
    From the story: "Ozdemir projects that the soccer stadium would generate $5.1 million a year in ticket-tax revenue, plus $4.1 million in sales and income taxes. He’s asking the Legislature to allow for the capture of $5 million of that revenue—money that wouldn't be generated if there were no soccer team—to back the stadium's bond payments." What does the legislature believe that the soccer attendees would otherwise do with their money: stuff it all in their mattress, light it on fire, or spend it in another state that has a soccer team? The only dollar amount that would be a net gain would be that money that would otherwise be out of state. Provide a legit study showing how much new public revenue would be generated by out-of-state visitors and you'll find the true economic benefit of the team. Of course, it would be very, very minimal.
  • Build it
    If all the other sports can get funding...i dont see why pro soccer would be any different...good luck eleven (my kids are really excited about the team)
  • MLS odds
    The link is realistically the 23rd team, leaving Indy competing against multiple cities for the 1 remaining franchise since MLS won't go beyond 24 teams. http://prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com/2014/02/06/rumor-arsenal-owner-stan-kroenke-to-create-mls-side-la-gunners/
  • Research yourself
    Again - the laziness of people around here to just tell the paper what to do instead of doing something themselves. In 3 seconds with just ONE association source we see the 60000 members (+ more) (http://www.soccerindiana.org/about/factsmissionvalues.aspx) Not every single soccer association in the state is a part of this organization. The one I played in growing up is not. Then you have some of the High school players who are not on any of these leagues, plus some of the summer leagues that pop up. So 60K is probably a safe conservative number. Will they all attend a game....no. But the number isn't pulled out of the air. As far as ticket deposits. As a season ticket holder, when I went to pick out my seats (which is after you've paid at least half the balance) there were MANY MANY seats that were already taken. Didn't count them. With this said - I too feel like the money should be used to grow, expand, and remodel Carroll.
  • Investigative journalism
    IBJ please investigate the following claims: 1. 65K registered soccer players in Indiana. 2. 7K season tix deposits. The reality is 50% at best in both cases.
  • Citizen investigators are on this
    Lots of details of fancy dealings are about to come out. Taxpayers will be shocked, this can't continue.
  • More than likely not getting an MLS team
    http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/mls/story/major-league-soccer-hopes-to-place-expansion-teams-in-miami-atalanta-120313 Also, the 11 is saying look at how many tickets we've sold for our 1st year. Guess what, the F1 race at the track was sold out the first year, and most didn't come back the 2nd year.
    • Okeson
      Downtown, I know Okeson and his history at the City and Keystone extremely well. Anyone who trusts him or Ersal Ozdemir on their sales pitch is a fool. If soccer is as popular as some people on here claim (it's not), then Ozdemir doesn't need our money. And make no mistake about it, he would be getting our money. You're talking discretionary income which would be spent elsewhere in the community, where it's taxed with the taxes going to the public treasury. Studies time and time again say that public investment in professional sports is an extremely poor investment. Yet our politicians continue to do it. Let's remember these are the same people who got taxpayers to build them a garage/commercial center in Broad Ripple for $6.35 million on which they get all ownership and all profits.
    • To Maria & Brook
      Maria - Why do you have to rely on the IBJ to do the finance research for you? Its all public campaign finance information. You think theres something going on there, look it up. Brook - IUPUI Carroll Stadium DOESN'T have the amenities. There aren't enough seats currently and they will be adding a lot of bleachers and seats. Make shift suite/club areas. The athelete rooms have no heat/ac, lockers, showers, and i don't even think running water. the toilet capacity for the increase amount of attendees than the track and field events generate are not adequate and hundreds of port-o-potties will need to be used. It definitely does not have the amenities.
    • IUPUI Stadium Remodel
      Why isn't the IUPUI stadium the target? It would lure major USA Track & Field events, serve as the home for the Indy Eleven, has a great location, and would be ideal if the ultimate goal was an MLS team. There is a chance IUPUI or IU would step in to shoulder some of the financing/capital.
    • What of tennis?
      The downtown tennis facility was destroyed to make way for... soccer?
    • Re: downtown
      The basketball community in Indiana is also strong and much, much, much, much larger. Yet the #1 team in the NBA can't sell out all of their games. Just because 60,000 fans spread throughout the state play a sport, doesn't mean they are going to attend a minor league game of that same sport.
    • location?
      not sure if I missed it or what, but where are they proposing this to be located????? I think they should upgrade the IUPUI stadium!!! makes more sense. I really don't have an interest at all in this soccer things.
    • Re: JPINUAE
      JPINUAE, thank you for your post. I did not know the relationship between Ersal Ozdemir and the IBJ. The fluff reporting regarding this project now makes a lot more sense.
    • Soccer
      If anyone spends two minutes researching the soccer community in Indiana, you would realize how strong it is…60,000 members of the Indiana Soccer Association alone…with many more clubs (including the Y) not included in that number. Over 40,000 people came to watch the European soccer club match last year. The market and enthusiasm are there…Indy has a very vibrant adult soccer community.
    • Questions
      Why couldn't they use the current outdoor stadium at IUPUI or Lucas Oil Stadium? Both are very nice facilities. They haven't even played thier first game yet.
    • Besides...
      Besides, 70 - 75% of kids quit playing soccer by the age of 14. The market for this soccer team is very limited and most likely doesn't have any longevity.
      • Yawn
        Why is Indianapolis so intent on building so many places where people can sit on their rear ends, drink beer and watch somebody else run around on a field or a floor? I mean, really.
      • Kidding Right?
        You obviously don't know Paul Okeson.
      • several thoughts
        I have several thoughts having been down this path before: 1. if it will pay for itself why are WE being asked to pay for it 2. hard data is lacking about attendance projections, ticket prices, tax revenue (numbers referenced are loose estimates) 3. enhance an existing facility like IUPUI because it has the amenities
      • Unsavory Character
        Is it true Ersal Ozdemir is the next door neighbor of the IBJ editor, Micky Mauer? If so, why isn't this fact disclosed. Ersal Ozdemir on top of going around hat in hand trying to get government hand outs for his projects (Broad Ripple parking garage)is also an officer in Turkish Collition PAC an organization designed to cover up and deny the Turkish Genocide of Armenians.
      • Give up fighting it
        this will be built. this sort of love-fest is perfunctory and basic protocol before the "courageous" politicians put their "skin in the game" (or insert other over-used cliché created by the powerhouse PR firms)and vote for it. Its always the same pattern (because it works). Is there a sports stadium in Indiana that seats over a 1000 people that is not funded with tax monies? Congrats Indiana residents, you're paying for a new stadium again!
      • Indy11 Facility
        I may have missed a discussion on this topic, but is there a reason that Victory Field could not be configured with both current fixed seating and temporary seating, at least at the outset of our soccer team?
      • Bowling
        Seriously a bowling alley would do well downtown. It's an activity which is becoming increasingly popular with young people. I'd much prefer that to a heavily tax subsidized soccer facility.
      • You've got to be kidding
        How in the world could this not be questioned by our elected officials? We are supposed to take this man's projections of tax revenues, when he is the beneficiary of the stadium? $5.1 million per year in ticket tax? $4.1 million per year in sales/income tax? And our legislators aren't questioning this at all? I am so tired of guys like this constantly getting $10's of millions of dollars of handouts (keep in mind we just gave him a free parking garage in Broad Ripple last year). When this gets built (because it obviously is going to be), just wait and see who the construction company: guaranteed to be Keystone. Wake up Rep. Braun.
      • Sports don't have to be everything, though
        While I get what you're saying, Jeff, and I agree to some point, why do we always have to focus on being "competitive" with other cities? This is the game that every other city plays, except for a chosen few. What if we invested our money and efforts into building a better city for our citizens - better neighborhoods, better schools, better infrastructure? Our competitive advantage, then, wouldn't be something that another city with more money can do better than us (in other words, building a better stadium/larger convention center, etc.)
      • Bowling
        You know what also has a large participant base? Bowling. Let's build a bowling stadium downtown too.
        • Sports Are Indy
          What do we do well in this city? How has Indy grown from a boring state capitol with no natural advantages into a bustling city that regularly competes on the national stage? The answer is sports. So, before you poo-poo the idea take a moment to think about building the RCA Dome without an NFL team. Think about the gamble of putting MSA into a downtrodden downtown. None of these ideas were slam dunks at the time. They required vision and a sense of what makes Indy different. I love the idea of a hi-speed rail, but it just doesn't have support and it isn't going to do much of anything to grow the city's national brand. Soccer us huge in the Midwest and the time is right for this to work. It's a long shot without long-term evidence of success, but that has never stopped Indy before.
        • Alternatives?
          Instead of throwing public money at yet another private venture, why don't we look at upgrading the IUPUI stadium? We're already going down that road with the natatorium.
        • Re: Soccer is Boring
          Soccer has an inherent advantage though: the large and growing number of soccer participants around Indiana. There are a lot of logistical issues organizing youth hockey, not the least of which are the requirements for an ice rink. Soccer is easier to set up and has thus had more participants, yielding more fans. It's a shame the Ice don't have more fans; that in no way, shape, or form means that Indy Eleven will suffer the same fate.
        • Soccer is Boring
          This sport's team will be just like the Indianapolis Ice. Sure, there is a lot of excitement for the inaugural season, but, this too will pass. Attended by small crowds and no measurable contribution to the downtown economy. It is irresponsible to believe that a new stadium to support this sport will ever pay for itself. Not to mention that this is yet another shady business dealing of Ozdemir himself. Check out Gary's take on this at: http://advanceindiana.blogspot.com/2014/01/ozdemir-trying-to-force-taxpayers-to.html
          • Joke
            These guys will give this "idea" unproven one at that consideration, but will not let the city on its own build a rail line from the airport to downtown or to Hamilton County. Too much power for rural county politicians!
          • Campaign $$$
            It would be nice if the IBJ could provide how much Ersal Ozdemir has given in campaign contributions to each member of this committee as well as the legislature as a whole.
          • to Tim Brown
            Let's keep this debate realistic. The Division III football playoffs last year attracted 5,371 fans to Salem. I'm not saying the stadium is a good or a bad idea, but seriously Mr. Brown let's have an honest discussion.
          • Great qoute from Steve Braun
            The same Steve Braun who says "The political class must be reminded it's OUR MONEY. We cannot continue to allow our government to grow and spend. It's time to elect representation that will be accountable to the taxpayer."
          • A story from Chicago...
          • LOL
            "Rep. Steve Braun, R-Zionsville, said...that he liked the idea of building another downtown venue." Then have them build the stadium in Zionsville and let the residents there cover the shortfall when the tax revenue projections fall drastically short.
          • Huh?
            “It would be a fairly nominal hit on that,” said Paul Okeson. Okeson, a politically savvy Keystone employee who has no tax, accounting or development background..... Wake up taxpayers. Make the proposed consultant, developer, legal and construction fees that are included in the $87 million public prior to allowing elected officials to vote on this.

            Post a comment to this story

            We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
            You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
            Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
            No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
            We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

            Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

            Sponsored by

            facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

            Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
            Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
            Subscribe to IBJ