Soccer team deserves support of legislators

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

The Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. The Pacers and the Knicks. Purdue and Indiana universities.

The Hoosier state has produced great sports rivalries. Those clashes, however, rely on the competitive nature of the team, whether the players are vying for a title and the fierce loyalty of fans.

It takes a while for a team to harvest a great rivalry.

It doesn’t happen when a team merely launches an inaugural season, as did the Indy Eleven professional soccer team last year. The Indy-based team, one of 11 in the North American Soccer League, finished its first season last year with a less-than-desirable record of 6 wins, 9 draws and 12 losses.

But team spirit in a community requires a home base, a place fans can call their own.

Wisely, the Indy Eleven ownership has been convincing legislators that, as fans renew their season tickets, the time is ripe to push for a new stadium. The Michael A. Carroll stadium at IUPUI — the Eleven’s current home — will serve the team well until a new site is built. But the Carroll stadium was constructed in 1982 for outdoor soccer and track and field events.

It can seat 12,111 for track events but only 11,000 for soccer. Every Indy Eleven home game last year was sold out.

Indy Eleven owners are proposing a new $82 million stadium for 18,200 fans in downtown Indianapolis. The plan was endorsed by the Indiana House 73-21. The Senate is now debating the bill.

Under House Bill 1273, team owners are to guarantee half the debt. Financing would come through taxes generated by the stadium and a hotel also being developed by owner Ersal Ozdemir. Taxes include sales, income and 10 percent of ticket revenues. There is to be no increase in city or state taxes, and tax dollars aren’t to be diverted into the project.

Indianapolis has a pretty good record of filling its stadiums. Of course, those have been for football and basketball. But soccer is coming into its own here. More than 60,000 youths are signed up to play on Hoosier teams in about 140 local clubs.

Those young players could become rabid soccer fans of Indy Eleven soccer, developing a team spirit in search of a rivalry.

The General Assembly should pass this plan.

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