Indiana House gatekeeper open to soccer stadium

Indiana House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown said Wednesday that he will consider the Indy Eleven professional soccer team’s request for state aid to build a downtown stadium.

The team kicks off its first season this spring at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium, but owner Ersal Ozdemir hopes the state will help finance a new $87 million stadium by allowing the team to capture ticket, sales and income taxes generated by the facility.

Brown said he’s familiar with the Indy Eleven proposal and expects to hear it as part of a Senate bill that will go before Ways and Means committee if it passes the Senate by the Feb. 5 deadline. The targeted bill is SB 308, which deals with the Professional Sports Development Area in Fort Wayne.

Brown said SB 308 hasn't yet been amended, but Brown said it's a "natural fit" to carry the soccer-stadium proposal. SB 308 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Ozdemir contends the multipurpose stadium will nearly pay for itself, since most of the debt service would be covered by ticket-tax revenue generated by events.

Brown said he’s concerned about the sales and income-tax revenue that would be captured as well. 

“Does this reduce and put strains on revenue we’ve forecasted?” asked Brown, a Republican from Crawfordsville.

Brown said he also wonders how many more event venues Indianapolis can absorb without a negative financial impact.

“My question, especially as they talk about a multiuse facility, is the impact on others, even outside of downtown,” he said. He said he's already heard some feedback from Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville.

Just last year the Legislature OK’d capturing tax revenue at the privately owned Indianapolis Motor Speedway to finance $100 million in grandstand and lighting improvements.

Brown said lawmakers will likely consider whether a deal for the IndyEleven should parallel the one for the IMS, which ultimately was required to put $2 million a year in cash toward the project.

Indy Eleven lobbyist Murray Clark has said the 18,500-seat soccer stadium would differ from the IMS in that it would be publicly owned. Ozdemir considers the admissions tax to be the team's financial contribution because it adds to the total cost of tickets and limits the team's profit margin.

Brown acknowledged the backlash that arises from ongoing public aid for professional sports. Historically, it’s been justified by national and international brand recognition brought by the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers and the Indy 500, he said. As lawmakers consider helping a fledgling soccer team with a new stadium, he said, “We just have to look at the use and the economic impact.”

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