Indy Eleven stadium bill appears unlikely to get Statehouse hearing

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The state’s top budget-writing senator isn’t scheduling a hearing for the bill that would help fund a proposed soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven, at least for now.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Ryan Mishler told IBJ on Monday that because the Capital Improvement Board hasn’t specifically included the Indy Eleven project in its long-term proposal to lawmakers, he doesn’t see a reason to have a hearing on Senate Bill 543.

The CIB owns Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, Victory Field and the Indiana Convention Center, and has been working with key state lawmakers for months to find ways to increase its funding as it prepares for the $120 million expansion of the convention center and future projects, which likely includes renovations at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Mishler is authoring a bill that would provide an additional $8.5 million annually for the CIB as long as the Indiana Pacers agree to stay in Indianapolis for another 25 years. He said that legislation—Senate Bill 7—is based on the CIB’s 25-year plan, which didn’t include a soccer stadium.

And it’s unclear if the CIB would request the addition of the stadium to the bill or not. CIB President Melina Kennedy has offered general verbal support for the Indy Eleven project, but has stressed that it must have a private funding component.

Under the current Indy Eleven proposal, the CIB would own the $150 million, 20,000-seat stadium that would be part of a larger $550 million mixed-use development known as Eleven Park.

SB 543, authored by Indianapolis Republican Sen. Jack Sandlin, would create a Professional Sports Development Area wherever the development is located. That district could capture up to $11 million in tax revenue per year for 32 years—money that would be paid by the businesses, residents and even athletes living or working at Eleven Park—and the revenue would be diverted to the CIB for the purpose of paying for the public infrastructure.

Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir said he wasn’t aware that Mishler was considering not giving the bill a hearing.

“We’ll obviously continue to work with all involved to make sure we at least have a hearing,” he said.

Sandlin said he is surprised Mishler is considering foregoing a vote on the bill. He said he has had conversations with Mishler, in passing, about his concerns with the legislation, but declined to elaborate.

Sandlin said he plans to meet with Mishler on Thursday to discuss Eleven Park and is hopeful the proposal can move forward. He said he would consider mounting an effort to fold the legislation in with the existing CIB legislation, if necessary, but said it wouldn’t be his first choice.

“We’re still in the legislative process,” he said. “I’m still confident that we’re going to be able to move the bill forward (but) I don’t know what that looks like.”

Ozdemir, who also owns local development and construction group Keystone Corp., doesn’t necessarily want to see the bill folded into the other CIB legislation, because he thinks there is a “big difference” between the two proposals.

He said the current bill varies drastically from the one proposed in 2015 that was ultimately sidelined. It sought more than $80 million in direct public financing for a standalone stadium.

“Our bill is a standalone issue,” he said. “It doesn’t have much involvement with the other bills, but if [state] leaders decide it should all be one bill, we would be OK with it.”

But Mishler sees a connection between the two issues, and said those working on the Indy Eleven proposal should testify when the other CIB bill has a hearing.

“If they feel it should be part of it, then when we hear Senate Bill 7, they should come in and explain why they should be part of it,” Mishler said. “It’s not that I’m not letting it be heard.”

An amendment thst would fold the stadium planinto Mishler’s bill seems unlikely to succeed, however, without explicit support from the CIB. And even then, Mishler isn’t sold on the idea yet.

“A lot of it would depend on how much it would cost,” Mishler said. “It seems like that’s a really big investment.”

Mishler said he thinks there’s a bigger risk to committing tax dollars to the soccer stadium than to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, because the Pacers have already shown they can be successful in drawing people downtown.

“They have a track record,” Mishler said. “They’ve brought in revenue.”

IBJ reporter Mickey Shuey contributed to this story.

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