Soccer team owner concedes battle for stadium funds this year

The owner of the Indy Eleven soccer franchise has conceded that his push for state financing help for a proposed 18,500-seat, $87 million stadium in Indianapolis will have to wait on the bench at least a year for another legislative session.

“We remain committed to working with legislators with an eye toward coming back next session and continuing the discussion about Indy Eleven's successful launch and its economic impact on our community and state,” team owner Ersal Ozdemir said in a statement released early Thursday afternoon.

Ozdemir made the statement soon after Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said at a Thursday press briefing that the proposal "doesn't seem like it's completely worked through yet. I think it would be wise for everyone to take a deep breath, step back and look at it."

Indiana legislators had been considering a proposal from Ozdemir that would add a 10-percent tax to tickets for the team’s games and other events at the proposed venue. The tax would be able to generate as much as $5 million in revenue annually to make payments on 30-year construction bonds that would be sold to finance the project, Ozdemir said.

However, an independent analysis by the Legislative Services Agency recently found that the venue would generate a tiny fraction of the revenue that Ozdemir projected. The bottom line for the state would be $218,000 to $445,000 a year, according to the analysis.

One critic of publicly financed stadiums described Ozdemir’s figure as “completely insane.”

“There’s no way on earth you could get $5 million a year in ticket taxes from a minor-league soccer franchise even with concerts and other events,” said Neil deMause, the Brooklyn-based author behind the Field of Schemes book and blog.

After initially receiving Ozdemir with little skepticism, Indiana legislators recently had begun expressing doubts about the plan.

"I have the sense that people in both parties share my fears we’re taking on a high-risk proposition,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis.

Long also said in his press briefing that it probably wasn't a good idea to address stadium funding in a non-budget year for the legislature.

The team plans to play its first two seasons in Michael A. Carroll Stadium on the IUPUI campus. Its inaugural season kicks off in April.

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