Eleven leads league in attendance, puts venue expansion on hold

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The Indy Eleven may not have been the hottest team on the field this season, but the expansion North American Soccer League squad certainly was at the ticket office. The Eleven was the runaway attendance leader in the 10-team NASL, posting an average of 10,465 tickets sold for its nine home games of the fall season, which concluded Nov. 1.

The Eleven also averaged 10,465 in attendance—essentially a sellout of IUPUI’s track and soccer stadium—for five home games in the spring campaign.

“It was the best-case scenario,” said Eleven spokesman John Koluder of this year’s attendance. “We figured if we could get some good crowds in for some of the first home games and word spread about the atmosphere, we could draw good crowds all the way through the season. And that’s just what happened.”

Although it was discussed by team officials earlier this season, the team will not expand its home venue’s capacity next year. Other improvements to the venue, however, are possible.

“We’ll work with Levy [Restaurants] to improve concessions, and work to improve traffic flow and restrooms,” Koluder said. “We’ll definitely revisit some elements of our game presentation and get feedback from our fans.”

Indianapolis has seen a number of other professional soccer teams—including the Blast and Twisters—come and go over the years, but those teams only attracted about one-fifth of what the Eleven drew per game. Some could only draw a few hundred per game.

“It was a good first year, but it’s easier to get people excited about the inaugural season,” said Indianapolis sports marketer David Morton, who has done work for Major League Soccer. “Now the challenge is to maintain, and build on, the momentum they created.”

The Eleven posted the weekly high in attendance during six of its nine home games and nearly doubled the league’s average attendance of 5,989 during the fall season. Second in NASL attendance for the fall campaign was Minnesota, which drew 9,234 fans per game.

The Eleven drew its biggest crowd for the final home game of the year, when 10,982 watched the team defeat San Antonio. It was the team’s second straight home win after a season-long struggle to earn victories, and Eleven executives think the late surge could help build momentum for next year’s ticket sales.

“The fans were enthusiastic all year, but especially about the improvements on the field late in the season,” Koluder said. “You can feel the pride in the fan base.”

Koluder gives a lot of credit for the high-energy atmosphere at Indy Eleven games to the Brickyard Battalion, an independently run organization that supports the team. The Battalion packed the area behind the west goal and often led the crowd in cheers.

“It was an enthusiastic, authentic soccer atmosphere,” Koluder said. “It’s almost like a college atmosphere. While the demographics of our fans are fairly broad, the atmosphere at our games likens itself to that type of young energy.”

For 2014, the Eleven capped season-ticket sales at 7,000 to assure there were ample single-game tickets available.

For 2015, Koluder wouldn’t say where the Eleven will cap season-ticket sales, but said team officials have a goal of selling more than 7,000.

“We’re hoping to create some scarcity, and that will help with demand,” Koluder said.

Prices, however, will remain the same for 2015, starting at $9 and going to $100 per game. Dec. 1 is the deadline for this year’s season-ticket holders to put down a 50-percent deposit to renew for next year and guarantee they get their same—or possibly better—seats.

The NASL schedule is expected to be released by late December or early January. Eleven officials on Dec. 15 will start letting fans who want to improve their seats to do so if better seats are available. In 2015, the Eleven will likely start their season with a series of exhibition games in February, and begin the NASL season in April.

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