The American football lines at Lucas Oil Stadium make for an interesting visual for Indy Eleven fans.
Last night was the first Indy Eleven game I was able to enjoy from Lucas Oil Stadium. Previously, Indy Eleven called IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium home, but this season has seen the team call Lucas Oil Stadium home. I never saw the Chelsea and A.C. Milan friendly that took place shortly after Lucas Oil Stadium opened, so this was not only my first Indy Eleven game in Lucas Oil Stadium, but my first soccer game inside the primarily American football stadium.
While on firsts, Wednesday nights match was also the first time Indy Eleven would play on, not only new turf, but with permanent American football field lines that made some fans lose track of the ball while others thought they might be watching a Major League Soccer match from the early 90s.
There is a tangible difference between the atmosphere of a match day at Carroll Stadium versus Lucas Oil Stadium. That’s also comparing an outdoor venue to an indoor venue, but the supporters had to make sacrifices that made Carroll Stadium a great atmosphere. No more smoke, restricted space for Capos, and supporters have been limited inside of Lucas Oil Stadium on what they can do. This was a frustrating adjustment for most fans and as a result, it saw the rituals for supporters be tweaked to a more appropriate manner.
Wednesday night games obviously lack the magic of a Saturday evening game, but there is an almost disappointing atmosphere compared to the team’s previous venue. It feels off. Maybe it’s the acoustics, maybe it’s the overall size of the venue and adjustments made inside Lucas Oil Stadium to accommodate the crowds the team will track. Nevertheless, the atmosphere isn’t great compared to Carroll Stadium.
Attendance is up!
While the atmosphere of game days may be suffering, attendance numbers are not. According to recent numbers published by the Indiana Business Journal, Indy Eleven’s average attendance for 2018 is up compared to 2017 by (about) two thousand. Whatever is contributing to that is yet to be seen, but one thing that is certain is the fear of games being canceled or the weather impacting games has stopped factoring into people coming out to games. Wednesday’s match was midst of a borderline tropical downpour which would heavily impact attendance at Carroll stadium but didn’t keep fans from coming to the indoor stadium.
Let’s talk about the football lines
When news broke before the Wednesday night game that the field at Lucas Oil Stadium could no longer be accommodating to the team and would now feature permanent football lines, the reactions were what you would call… expected. Many fans were upset as these visually were a step back. The early days of Major League Soccer saw teams playing in football stadiums and as a result Indy Eleven fans were upset.
The team didn’t seem thrilled, either:
“We’re thankful for the opportunity to play our home games on the new turf,” said Indy Eleven president Jeff Belskus. “Unfortunately, painting over the football lines was not acceptable for all parties. As a result, we’ll be playing with football lines visible for the rest of the year.”
So, it’s safe to say that no one is happy with the decision. The move was made to be even worse by the fact that you couldn’t really see the lines used for the soccer field because your eyes were overwhelmed by the large white lines for the football field. Even if that wasn’t enough, the effort made to show where the soccer field began and ended was almost impossible to catch without really focusing in on it.
I reached out to Indy Eleven for a comment on the paint, who controls that, and if they would push to get a better visual situation before their next home game and at the time of publishing, I haven’t received an answer back.
This is still better than where they have been
Yes, the move from the campus of IUPUI to the house of the Indianapolis Colts was a big step. A big step the team needed to take. From the outside looking in, the deal at Carroll Stadium wasn’t great and wasn’t getting any better and likely had little chance to get better. While Lucas Oil Stadium is restrictive on what can be done inside, it has provided the team with a sizable jump in average attendance, which is a metric that many will judge this team on.
Carroll Stadium was never going to be the long-term platform in which the team moved up. While the atmosphere at the stadium is a 360 degree difference compared to Lucas Oil Stadium in was never going to be the long term solution for a team in need of a permanent place to call home.
Things like the field markings are battles the front office needs to fight for. Multiple times during the game against North Carolina players on both teams were called out of bounds for seemingly not being able to see the field markings. While Lucas Oil Stadium is owned and operated by a public entity, it’s main purpose is to give the Indianapolis Colts a home. While, unintentionally, the lack of compassion for the other venue’s tenant is apparent.
It’s not something that Indy Eleven need to go out of their way to make clear to fans and supporters. But, Indy Eleven deserve more respect from the Capital Improvements Board or whoever makes the decisions involving aspects of Lucas Oil stadium. Because while the football lines are an eyesore, the lack of smoke is discouraging and other aspects were sacrificed with the move from Michael A. Carroll Stadium, this is still a fun team to watch and it still is Indiana’s team.