Public support for taxpayer-backed sports stadiums in central Indiana appears bleak, at a time when lawmakers are considering bills that could provide funding mechanisms for various venues.
A December survey released Tuesday by the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute shows there’s little appetite for public subsidies for most stadium projects, but in particular a new home for Indy Eleven.
The survey was conducted before team owner Ersal Ozdemir announced plans for a $550 million public-private development that would include a stadium.
The development would include $400 million in private investment for apartments, retail, office and lodging space and capture as much as $150 million in tax revenue generated by and within that development to pay off bonds for the stadium. The stadium would be owned by the Capital Improvement Board.
Only 23 percent of the survey’s 840 respondents said they supported public funding efforts for a publicly funded professional soccer venue, which was first proposed by the team in 2015 as a standalone, $87 million project.
A stadium for Indy Eleven had the least support of all the venues included in the survey, with 37 percent saying they’d support funding for Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Victory Field, while 34 percent support funding for for Bankers Life Fieldhouse and 31 percent for Lucas Oil Stadium.
About 42 percent of those surveyed were from Marion County, with another 36 percent from bordering counties. The final 22 percent were from other parts of the region.
The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll was conducted online by Qualtrics.
David Pierce, director of the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute, said the funding mechanisms being proposed by the Eleven for its stadium and surrounding development make the project more palatable to taxpayers, but noted it likely wouldn’t have changed the survey results much.
“I don’t know that it would be anything that would fundamentally flip that favorability rating, necessarily,” he said.
Pierce said “there are some areas that people can get more excited about” with the plan being proposed and noted it would likely be more attractive to taxpayers if the stadium were locating in an area that could see revitalization as a result.
Investors are eying several potential locations for the development, including a site close to Lucas Oil Stadium and the now-closed Broad Ripple High School.
Even with the split between private and public investment, Pierce said Indy Eleven likely still faces an uphill battle. Ozdemir is currently looking to build a case—and support—for the project at the Legislature. A bill that would fund the soccer stadium may not get a hearing, but that bill's author has invited Indy Eleven supporters to testify at a hearing on a separate bill that would provide funding to the CIB is already planned.
Pierce said local taxpayers have lost their appetite for the continued support of stadiums over the years, particularly after hefty investments in projects like Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
More funding could come to both in the coming years, as the Pacers eye improvements to the Fieldhouse in exchange for a long-term deal to stay in Indianapolis. The survey didn’t ask questions about public support for long-term deals for sports teams.