Indy Eleven officials are revamping season ticket packages and decreasing prices in all sections in an effort to reverse a two-year attendance slide and reclaim its place as the North American Soccer League's attendance leader.
And they've not given up on the idea of a purpose-built downtown stadium.
The team launched its 2017 season ticket campaign this week and announced packages would include one more game—17—than they have in previous years.
Season ticket prices will decrese despite the additional game, said Eleven President Jeff Belskus. In two premium sections, there will be major price decreases: from $1,072 to $800 in the Premier Sideline section and from $1,600 to $1,200 in the Premier Midfield section.
Belskus, who this year replaced the team’s founding president Peter Wilt, explained that the idea is to give season ticket holders a bigger percentage discount over single-game ticket prices.
“That’s one thing we’ve heard from our season ticket buyers,” Belskus said. “They didn’t think there was a big enough difference between the price of tickets when you bought them in a season package compared to single-game prices. We’re trying to add more value for our season ticket customers.”
Team officials also tried to simplify the season-ticket pricing structure, paring it down from 13 to nine price points, Belskus said.
The season ticket packages for 2017 now range from $135 to $1,200. Most season ticket packages can be had for $515 or less. The amount season ticket buyers will save over the single-game price ranges from 31 percent to 48 percent. And the price of the least expensive season ticket package decreased from $144 to $135.
Fans buying tickets in the bleachers on the west end of the field—many of whom are part of the team’s support group, the Brickyard Battalion—will receive the biggest (48 percent) discount on single-game ticket prices. Last year, fans sitting in that area only saved about 10 percent by buying season tickets compared to the single-game ticket price. The cost of those season tickets for 2017 will be $150, down from $160 this season.
Some of the single-game ticket prices are going up next year. As in the previous example, the tickets in the west end bleachers are being raised from $11 to $15 per game.
After putting a cap on its season-ticket sales its first season, the Eleven sold 7,000. That number decreased to just more than 6,000 last year. Belskus declined to say how many season tickets the team sold this year.
He isn’t too concerned with the two-year attendance dip.
The Indy Eleven led the NASL in attendance with a per-game average of 10,465 in the team’s debut season in 2014. Last season, the team again led the NASL in attendance despite dipping to 9,809 per game. This year, the team averaged 8,362 per game at its home at the IUPUI track and soccer stadium, good for second in the league.
“I think there’s an element of newness that has worn off, and now we’re settling in,” Belskus said. “But we have a very strong core of loyal fans.”
He added that the IUPUI track and soccer stadium—which has no concourses where people could take shelter from bad weather and few concession stands and bathrooms—“is less than desirable.”
Belskus said team officials are having “an ongoing dialogue” with state lawmakers about potential funding for a new stadium. During the last three sessions of the General Assembly, team officials have sought financial support for an $80 million-plus downtown stadium that would seat as many as 18,500 people.
The team’s various proposals met with mixed reactions from lawmakers and eventually died. State lawmakers have offered to help finance improvements to the team’s existing home, a proposal the team rejected.
“The southwest quadrant of downtown—stadium village—would be ideal [for a new stadium], but there are a lot of alternatives we could entertain,” Belskus said.
He said one thing is certain: team owner Ersal Ozdemir’s commitment to the team in 2017 and beyond, Belskus said. Some NASL teams are having serious financial difficulties. The Eleven isn't one of those teams, Belskus added.
“One of the things that attracted me to this job is Ersal’s passion and commitment,” Belskus said. “We can always sell more and we continue to work on that day and night as well as containing costs. But we’re on solid financial footing.”
The Eleven hosts its first playoff game Saturday, and Belskus expects a better than average crowd.
“Tickets are moving fast,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement building around the game.”