Indy Eleven faces early hurdles in MLS bid

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)—Plans are in motion for Indy Eleven’s move to Major League Soccer, but first they’ll need a new stadium.

Indy Eleven executives have their sights set on a 16-acre lot next to Lucas Oil Stadium. Team President Jeff Belskus said the stadium will cost about $100 million.

“We felt like it’s now or never,” Belskus said.

MLS is expanding by four teams and Indy Eleven is competing with 11 other cities for a spot. Competing cities include St. Louis, Sacramento, Detroit, Nashville and San Antonio.

If Indy Eleven makes the cut, Belskus said, the team will also pay a franchise expansion fee of about $150 million.

The team has already lined up several investors, according to Belskus.

“We envision it as a public-private partnership,” Belskus said. “We’re not asking for tax increases. We’re not asking for new taxes.”

The team’s hope is that part of the taxes on ticket prices, concessions and other in-stadium sales will go toward the project.

Belskus said, ideally, the city’s Capitol Improvement Board would own the stadium.

CIB President Melina Kennedy, however, said the CIB doesn’t currently have the financial capacity to support another stadium.

Indy Eleven currently averages nearly 10,000 fans per game, which is near capacity at Carroll Stadium, according to team executives.

Ken Ungar, president of an Indianapolis-based sports marketing agency called Charge, said he expects attendance to double if Indy Eleven moves to MLS.

“I think there’s a strong chance that we’ll be successful but we really have tough competition,” Ungar said.

Ungar estimates an MLS team would generate tens of millions of dollars for the local economy.

He said Indy Eleven’s success is another example of soccer’s growth in the United States.

“It’s rare that I’ve seen an environment this competitive for a professional franchise, which I think speaks to the relative value of MLS in 2017,” Ungar said.

Belskus said the team plans to discuss the plans in the coming months with local and state lawmakers.

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