State lawmaker tells Indy Eleven owner ‘be a man,’ pony up for stadium

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Efforts by local developer Ersal Ozdemir to secure tens of millions of dollars in public money to build a downtown soccer stadium for his North American Soccer League team appear to have hit a brick wall in this year’s General Assembly, and perhaps permanently, said one key lawmaker.

A bill was filed Dec. 31 by Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, for $20 million in publicly backed bonds to be used for the renovation of the Indy Eleven’s current home on the IUPUI campus on the western edge of downtown.

But Huston said it was mistakenly filed and was subsequently spiked. Previously, Indy Eleven officials have opposed renovation of the 33-year-old Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium, instead preferring a purpose-built facility in a better part of downtown.

A representative for Huston told IBJ this week that the chances of a soccer stadium bill coming to life this year, a non-budget year, are nil.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told IBJ on Tuesday he’s not expecting any movement on a soccer stadium during this year’s legislative session—and not ever unless Ozdemir, the Eleven’s owner, agrees to kick in significant funding for the project.

“I keep telling him to stand up and be a man,” Kenley said. “If you’re a real capitalist, you should have money of your own in this. He’s one of those developers who’s had a little success and who realizes if he can get government to pay for this or that, then that’s a good deal for him. He acts like that’s pro forma.”

Last year, Kenley and Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, introduced a measure to upgrade IUPUI’s track and soccer stadium, but Kenley said that bill was killed after Ozdemir declined to pony up money for the project.

Renovating IUPUI’s stadium "doesn’t give you long-term hope or opportunities for large success,” then-Indy Eleven General Manager Peter Wilt told IBJ in November. “We’re open to all thoughts, but renovation of Carroll Stadium doesn’t seem to be a workable solution for the team.”

Wilt has been replaced by former Indianapolis Motor Speedway boss Jeff Belskus and is now a consultant to the team.

Eleven officials said they want to work collaboratively with state lawmakers to come up with a solution that makes sense for everyone.

“Indy Eleven is actively pursuing all options that will result in a fair stadium funding proposal for the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana and taxpayers, and that includes the potential for the club to contribute financially towards the project,” the Eleven said in a statement.

“The club appreciates the open-mindedness of and input from various parties into the process, and we look forward to the ongoing conversations being had,” the statement continued. “We understand this is a short legislative session and a non-budget year, and are therefore working diligently towards a responsible funding solution that will not require budget appropriation by the General Assembly.”


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