Apr 25, 2024 - News

City officials pursuing MLS team without Indy Eleven

Proposed location of new stadium
The outlined properties are being considered for part of the stadium development. The new professional sports development area would be centered at 355 E. Pearl St. Map: Axios Visuals

Indianapolis is going after a Major League Soccer team — but without the Indy Eleven.

Why it matters: The city is betting big on bringing MLS to town with the backing of an unnamed group of investors ready to take on ownership of the team and willing to pay the estimated $500 million expansion fee.

  • In doing so, the city is walking away from a proposed partnership with Keystone Development Group and the Indy Eleven, a member of the United Soccer League.
  • Keystone has already broken ground on Eleven Park, a $1.5 billion mixed-use project along the White River that is supposed to include a 20,000-seat soccer stadium.

Driving the news: The city filed a resolution with the Metropolitan Development Commission on Wednesday to create a new professional sports development area for the proposed soccer stadium on the southeast side of downtown.

  • The stadium would be located on the south side of Washington Street, along the proposed Blue Line of the city's bus rapid transit system and adjacent to the downtown transit center.
  • It would likely encompass parking lots in the area and the former jail on Maryland Street, between Delaware and Alabama streets that's been decommissioned and slated for redevelopment.

State of play: In order to be an attractive candidate for an MLS expansion team, city officials say they need a publicly funded and supported soccer stadium and an ownership group that can manage the franchise and pay the expansion fee.

  • Mayor Joe Hogsett said he met with MLS commissioner Don Garber in New York on Monday to tell the league that Indianapolis is ready to meet both requirements and will be filing an application.

Reality check: The MLS has not announced any plans to expand beyond its current 30 teams.

  • Last year, the league added San Diego FC, which will start competing in 2025.
  • In a statement, the MLS said: "It was exciting to hear Mayor Hogsett's vision for a new soccer-specific stadium in Indianapolis."

How it works: The professional sports development area is the mechanism to fund the construction of a soccer stadium.

  • It would encapsulate property in and around the stadium and enable the city to take some tax revenue generated by those properties and divert it toward the stadium.
  • A stadium would only be built, though, with the guarantee of an MLS team.
  • It goes before the MDC for approval next week.

The intrigue: If approved, it would be the second such district created for a soccer stadium.

Catch up quick: State lawmakers passed legislation in 2019 paving the way for a professional soccer stadium, after years of lobbying from Keystone founder and owner Ersal Ozdemir, who also owns the Indy Eleven.

  • The developer broke ground on Eleven Park last May at a ceremony that Hogsett attended.
  • Keystone has amassed 20 acres of land around the former Diamond Chain property and is demolishing existing buildings for their project, which calls for 600 apartments, 200,000 square feet of offices, a hotel, green space and retail, in addition to the stadium.

Between the lines: The city didn't think Keystone could finance their project, so leaders leveraged the 2019 law to find another path to an MLS team.

  • The city says the unnamed ownership group can choose between the two sites, but it's hard to see a path forward on the Keystone-owned property.

What they're saying: "This is more than disappointing," Keystone said in a statement. "It's a shocking reversal of Mayor Hogsett's public support for this project."

What's next: If the MDC approves the district next week, it would then go to the City-County Council and back to the MDC for a final vote.

  • The ownership group would then choose between the two proposed sites, taking one to the State Budget Committee for consideration.
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