Indianapolis kills soccer stadium for existing team to chase MLS dream


When Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced he’d be pursuing a Major League Soccer team for his city, it appeared to throw Indianapolis’ previous plans for a new stadium development — spearheaded by the owner of the city’s United Soccer League team, the Indy Eleven, Ersal Ozdemir — into doubt. 

But city officials subsequently revealed that negotiations between the city and Ozdemir to build a stadium for the Indy Eleven had already ended in March, roughly a month before Hogsett made his announcement. 

Hogsett’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Renderings of a new stadium for the United Soccer League Indy Eleven are unlikely to be realized after the Indianapolis mayor spurned the team in favor of Major League Soccer hopes.

Indy Eleven

But according to the Indianapolis Business Journal, Hogsett now says the city concluded the Professional Sports Development Area that had been created for that Indy Eleven project, around the site of the old Diamond Chain manufacturing plant, wouldn’t generate enough tax revenue to pay for the planned stadium development. 

And while the City-County Council had approved the PSDA map for that development, Eleven Park, in December, Hogsett never passed the map along to the state budget committee — a necessary step in the financing process.

Meanwhile, Hogsett had met with MLS officials who led him to believe Indianapolis had a shot at an MLS team. Hogsett’s spokesperson told the IBJ that the officials said the city would need a group of investors with the financial and political muscle to publicly finance, construct and own a new soccer stadium. 

Hogsett’s administration has not revealed who is heading the team of investors it has assembled. A law passed by state legislators in 2019 and amended in 2021 requires at least 20% of the construction costs for the new stadium be borne by the investors’ or ownership group.

Ozdemir had sought for his team to join the MLS back in 2017, when there were two spots open and the Indy Eleven were up against nine other teams.

Now fans of of the USL team, in its eleventh season, are left in limbo, facing the potential elimination of their club in favor of the new organization and its mystery investors. The USL is officially a Division II league, according to U.S. Soccer, the sport’s governing body. MLS is Division I.

The Eleven ranked third in the USL for attendance last year, according to the soccer news site Transfermarkt, averaging 9,721 in the 12,111-seat Michael A. Carroll Stadium on the Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

Rather than build a stadium on the plot of land Ozdemir bought — which since the groundbreaking last year has been revealed to host human remains, most likely from the Black section of Greenlawn Cemetery — the mayor favors a new PSDA near the downtown heliport, presently owned by the Indianapolis International Airport Authority.

The City-County Council approved the creation of the new PSDA earlier this month, referring a declaratory resolution and development area plan to the Rules and Public Policy Committee.

The new PSDA will be going before the Metropolitan Development Commission on June 26, a senior planner at the Department of Metropolitan Development confirmed. The MDC has nine members, five of them appointed by the mayor and four by the City-County Council. 

A spokesperson for the city said the mayor believes the new PSDA can pull in enough tax revenue where the Diamond Chain site fell short because the new map “includes a more diverse mix of planned and ongoing developments.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett
Mayor Joe Hogsett has come out in favor of a Major League Soccer team for Indianapolis, which MLS officials say would require an ownership group that can build a new publicly financed stadium.

City of Indianapolis

For example, she said, it spans the $600 million redevelopment of Circle Centre Mall, the redevelopment of the City Market campus and upgrades to the Old City Hall block.

“The enabling state legislation for the soccer-specific PSDA outlines a process that seeks input from the community through public hearings before both the City-County Council and Metropolitan Development Commission,” she noted. “That process does not involve a referendum.”

Andy Mallon, executive director of the Capital Improvement Board of Managers of Marion County, said “it is really too soon to say” whether the Capital Improvement Board would operate a completed soccer stadium at the mayor’s preferred location, how much Hogsett’s favored plan would cost or how much of it would be bond financed.

Through a spokesperson, Indianapolis Local Public Improvement Bond Bank Executive Director Joe Glass confirmed that the bond bank would issue any bonds used to finance the new MLS stadium.

Mayor Hogsett has said that if the city does not get an MLS team, no new stadium will be built.

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