Indy Eleven found themselves playing on the political field today

Usually doing their work on the soccer pitch, Indy Eleven took their talents to the political field in regards to their potential new stadium.

It was not the response they wanted. Ideally, Indy Eleven brass would like to be onto their next step in the process of erecting Eleven Park, namely choosing a location for the neighborhood development. But, after today’s State Senate hearings Indy Eleven will have to wait at least one week before beginning the next steps due to the Appropriations Committee moved to delay the vote on Senate Bill 543 until next week.

Senate Bill 543 could get folded into Senate Bill 7

Without overwhelming you with every detail, Senate Bill 7, the original bill being heard today, would increase the funding towards the “CIB” or the Capital Improvements Board, to help with maintenance costs of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers home Banker’s Life Field House. In exchange, it is understood that the Indiana Pacers would sign a long-term lease to remain in Indianapolis.

Today, during the hearing, Senator Jack Sandlin proposed folding Senate Bill 543, which will be considered by the same CIB, into Senate Bill 7. Senate Bill 543 addresses funding and the next steps to allow for the construction of Eleven Park as the permanent home of Indy Eleven. The discussion was lengthy, with Sandlin not able to articulate every detail but stressing that Indiana and Indianapolis, his district, is becoming a destination for major sports events.

Indiana, and Indianapolis in particular, has only hosted one international game in recent memory, the match between Chelsea and Inter Milan inside of Lucas Oil Stadium. The stadium was packed but field conditions were less than ideal for this match. The passage of Senate Bill 543 would provide a future location for these games and make Indianapolis a possible destination for matches of the USMNT and USWNT.

Ersal Ozdemir also testified alongside an unnamed lobbyist for the team in front of the Committee and pushed the fact that this proposal isn’t asking for any new taxes, unlike the infamous Lucas Oil Stadium deal. Indy Eleven is asking for developer backed bonds to be issued to the team in the amount of $150 million. These bonds will go towards building the actual stadium while $400 million in private funding will cover all other costs.

Questions on questions

There are a lot of questions still left to be answered. Three that spring immediately to mind are:

How much income and sales tax revenue will the state lose out on with the use of developer backed bond? Senator Karen Tallian specifically requested a break down of the sports-related funding and spending.

Where will this stadium be built? The only thing confirmed from the hearing is that the club is proposing a location that is not currently generating income or sales tax but is sitting dormant. This factor could be an important selling point in the team’s negotiations.

How does this affect Senate Bill 7 and will these two parties be able to work together to resolve both stadium issues successfully? Many Senate and Appropriations Committee members have made it clear that while they will acknowledge that Indy Eleven is playing in a professional league they care that the team is not in the MLS. The NBA represents a much larger economic carrot for those controlling budgets. If the budgets for both teams are considered together will Indy Eleven suffer from less perceived bargaining power?

Now we wait

Senator Ryan Mishler, the newly appointed head of the Appropriations Committee, always planned for Senate Bill 7 to be delayed a week. Now that it has been proposed that Senate Bill 543 be combined with the original Senate Bill 7 and voting has been delayed for a week, Indy Eleven get to sit and wait while the Appropriations Committee, on Senator Tallian’s request, consider the funds available for multiple stadium projects.

Indy Eleven has two things going for it coming out of today’s hearing:

One – This was arguably the most positive stadium hearing the team has had. Senators seem to look on the deal more favorably as it minimizes the burden on the taxpayers, something that can be directly contrasted with the heavy taxpayer burdens that are still being felt from other stadium constructions.

Two – It would seem that the City of Indianapolis is behind the building of Eleven Park. Chief of Staff Thomas Cook spoke on behalf of the member of the CIB and detailed encouraging discussions and movements the team has made toward the completion of Eleven Park.

The next hearing for these bills will be on February 21st and likely result in a vote for or against the proposals.

Archived video of the hearing should be available below

http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2019/committees/appropriations_3700

Author

Brian Cook

Brian has followed Indy Eleven as a supporter since their birth and began covering the team in a number of capacities in 2015. He can be reached at brianfrederickcook@gmail.com or @SoccerwithBrian on Twitter.