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House passes stadium bill; Senate leaders says it's not a priority

February 25, 2015

The Indiana House approved a bill Wednesday to help fund an $82 million stadium for the Indy Eleven soccer team, but the leader of the Senate said the legislation will not be a priority for that chamber.

“I think it’s a little difficult to talk about helping getting a soccer stadium built when we’re talking about more funding for our schools,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. “So it would really depend on if our priorities will be able to be funded.”

But Long didn't rule out that the legislation could move through the Senate.

The bill – approved 73-21 by the Republican-controlled House – would capture tax revenue generated at the venue and a hotel to be built by Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir to pay off bonds for the proposed 18,500-seat stadium in a location yet to be announced in downtown Indianapolis.

That money would otherwise have gone to state or local governments.

As amended on Tuesday, the bill also requires the team owner to guarantee half of the stadium’s debt.

“I see this as an economic development bill,” said its author, Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers.

He urged lawmakers from across the state to approve the bill, even though it focuses largely on central Indiana. And he said the stadium would be used for other purposes, not just soccer.

“Our state is stronger by a stronger Indianapolis,” Huston said. “We’re all the beneficiaries of a strong downtown.”

Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, objected to the legislation, saying that U.S. Census numbers show Indianapolis is the ninth poorest city in the nation. He said state money should be focused on solving that problem, not building soccer stadiums.

And he discounted talk that the legislation is an economic development tool.

“I know some would argue that a soccer field would bring jobs,” Huston said. “But everybody doesn’t want to sell popcorn.”

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