Thursday, December 11, 2014

Indy Eleven Stadium

I've been working on the background of this post for far longer than I care to admit.  Hopefully, I'm able to translate the work that I've done into a coherent post.

The Indy Eleven want a soccer-specific stadium. Carroll Stadium has been serviceable this season, and will continue to need to be serviceable for the foreseeable future, but it's not an ideal solution for a professional team in today's modern sports world.  For all the effort that the team has done to get the stadium to accommodate 10,000+ people game after game, it's not where they or the fans want it to be.  While a temporary necessity, a string of Port-o-Potties on both ends of the stadium, concessions run out of converted cargo containers, and a series of hastily constructed suites on one side of the stadium are not what viewers have come to expect from modern stadiums.  DePauw University's Reavis Stadium and Butler's Butler Bowl are two great soccer facilities (though I still object to the artificial turf in both...), but obviously on a much smaller scale than is required by the Indy Eleven.

Let me make something clear.  I think the Indy Eleven have a much better chance of succeeding where past iterations of professional soccer in Indianapolis has failed.  The conditions have finally found the right mix of demand and product.  However, talk of moving up a division to MLS is premature at this point.  10,000+ people per game in the inaugural season is one thing, but to sustain and build upon that will be telling.  I have yet to hear numbers for season ticket renewals/purchases for Season 2.  My hope is that demand remains high, but I want the team to take a weighted approach to a new stadium.  I agree with them that a stadium is necessary and a soccer-specific stadium would be ideal, but I think it should be done the way that San Antonio has gone about building Toyota Field in phases.  Start reasonable and as demand increases, increase the size of the stadium. Which I'll discuss again later.

The Indy Eleven want a soccer-specific stadium.  That's not been a secret.  Ersal Ozdemir, Peter Wilt, and the team asked people to write the state legislature about getting the ball rolling on a stadium before the team had ever had the ball rolling in an actual game that mattered.  While that effort ultimately failed for this past year, the plan is to continue that discussion for a multi-purpose stadium.  During Peter's Reddit recent AMA, he was asked about a soccer-specific stadium and this was the exchange:
[–]nickp91 8 points  
Soccer specific stadium in Indianapolis by 2020
[–]Indy ElevenIndyEleven 10 points  
Sure....sounds good to the moment i'm cautiously optimistic to have it built by 2017/18.
[–]GenWRX 3 points  
What do you see as the major factor in preventing the stadium from moving forward?
[–]Indy ElevenIndyEleven 9 points  
Educating General Assembly and public.
[–]Indy ElevenTheChosenJuan99 3 points  
Is there a design already in place for the SSS? If so, what existing stadium across the world would it be best compared to?
[–]Indy ElevenIndyEleven 5 points  
So that means Peter's expecting at least 3 full seasons in Carroll Stadium and possibly a fourth, but realizes that it could be more.  Nick isn't optimistic it would happen until 2020.  Assuming that the team hasn't already hired an architect to start preliminary ideas for a stadium (which could be a wrong assumption), that could take a year to design after the idea gets approved.  Another 1.5 - 2 years to build and I would say Peter's cautiously optimistic dates are probably best case.  Peter also references the Estadio Municipal Braga in that exchange.  I'll get to that in a bit.

There are a myriad of questions that go into a soccer-specific stadium.  Where do you put it, how big do you make it, expandable, parking, amenities, additional practice fields, etc.  From everything that I have heard, the team wants it in downtown Indianapolis.  I have a feeling that a stadium could be built in Grand Park in Westfield, but that isn't the ideal location from what has been said to date.  Ersal made a bid for the old GM Stamping Plant on the southwest corner of downtown and you can see why.
Conservatively, that's 100 acres of open space for a stadium, parking, and multi-use "extras."  Close access to I-70, Washington Street, and downtown (that's Victory Field in the upper right hand corner of the photo).  Which is probably why "The long-defunct 1930s-era General Motors Stamping plant will spring to life next year. Dave Lucas, Indianapolis' old-school rock concert promoter (Deer Creek was his baby), plans to break ground in the first half of 2015 on a $40 million concert venue he will call The Stamp. Shows could begin as early as 2016." (source, 2nd article)

The Stamp drastically affects the Indy Eleven's sale of a multi-purpose facility and it's a shame the two investors can't or won't see the symbiotic relationship that could be had between their two plans.  The Eleven had indicated that a soccer-specific stadium could be used to host more than just the Eleven's 16 - 20 games per year, but could include high school, college, and international games (wouldn't you want to see the USMNT/USWNT play here - assuming a field of grass and not turf), as well as concerts.  So the question becomes, will the public buy into the team's tax breaks to build an $85M soccer-specific stadium that will have difficulty competing with several other venues for concerts (Klipsh in Noblesville, the Paladium in Carmel, The Stamp, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, The Murat...).  Can the area support a soccer stadium that will have difficulty competing against the other venues that are better suited for music?

So what are some other options downtown?  Using Google Earth and my knowledge of the city, I scoured the area for locations that were downtown or near downtown that had substantial amount of land.  I looked at three midwestern MLS stadiums as my basis for what may be required for a future soccer-specific stadium in Indianapolis: Crew Stadium for the Columbus, Sporting Park for Sporting Kansas City, and Toyota Park for the Chicago Fire (all with grass fields).  While the expanded area around the stadiums varied, the immediate area around each one ranged from about 10 - 15 acres and the stadiums themselves are relatively consistent at about 7.5 acres.
Crew Stadium - Columbus Crew

Toyota Park - Chicago Fire

Sporting Park - Sporting Kansas City
While the stadiums are all about the same size, given Peter Wilt's past association with the Chicago Fire, I chose to use it as my basis for my analysis of sites around Indianapolis.  After my evaluation, I found 10 sites that I thought held promise and evaluated further.  Of those 10, I narrowed it down to 5 that I felt held more promise than the others.
The Top Ten:

  1. Carroll Stadium
  2. Kuntz Stadium
  3. GM Stamp Plant
  4. Military Park
  5. Sand Street
  6. Lilly Recreation Park
  7. Maryland and Alabama
  8. National Starch
  9. 16th and Fall Creek Parkway East
  10. An industrial site that I know is changing ownership, but I ruled out for reasons I don't want to discuss
I immediately ruled out #1, #3, #6, #9, and #10.  I eliminated Carroll Stadium as an option mostly because the team needs a place to play while the new one is being built, the site doesn't lend itself to fixing the current east-west orientation of the field.  Plus I'm assuming new stadium and not rehabilitated stadium.  #6 has massive issues with water, though a partnership with Lilly would be valuable moving forward.  #9 has some issues with orientation and water.  The GM Stamp Plant isn't an option because of the above issues.  Though a stadium looks good on that site:
So much available space...

  • It's a location familiar to most local soccer fans, 
  • Professional soccer in Indiana has a history there, and 
  • It's just outside of what I would consider "downtown."  
  • Technically, the stadium fits on the site, but it is snug.
  • Absolutely no available parking, nor locations to build garage or lot without taking over properties.
  • A school was just constructed on the northwest corner of the site.


  • Massive amounts of space.
  • Relatively close to downtown (southwest corner near the Lilly Facilities - Lilly Rec Park is on the bottom edge of the photo)
  • May not be available for use.
FINAL ASSESSMENT - Doubtful.  While there is one con listed, it's a fairly big one.


  • The location is currently being used for parking.  
  • The structure on the southwest side of the proposed location is the parking garage that is just to the east of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  Creates a "sports zone" in the city.
  • Heliport to the east.
  • Hotels and other entertainment within walking distance.
  • Located in downtown.
  • Heliport to the east.
  • Would require modifications to Maryland Street since the stadium is larger than the main parking site.
  • An existing smaller building is located in the slice between Maryland and New Jersey.
  • Debatable whether a stadium can even fit on the site.


  • Fits on the site nicely.
  • Maintain relationship with IUPUI for parking.
  • Close to NCAA Hall of Champions.
  • Close to Canal.
  • Located in downtown.
  • Hotels and entertainment within walking distance.
  • With the historical connotations of the Indy Eleven, name the stadium Military Park.
  • Military Park is one of the largest open spaces in the downtown area and is used extensively for events throughout the year.  Getting a structure built on the site would be a huge political undertaking.
FINAL ASSESSMENT - Potential, but not without effort
(EDIT: Based on comments, I want to add here that I'm not suggesting this as a preferred location. I was simply pointing out places within Indianapolis that have enough space with which to locate a stadium and included the space for completeness. I wouldn't want a stadium there either...)


  • Currently used as a periodic parking lot.
  • Close proximity to Lucas Oil Stadium, again creating a "sports zone."
  • Part of the site is for sale.
  • Hotels and entertainment nearby
  • Across the river from the GM Stamp Plant where the team was considering
  • Availability to purchase all of the necessary site?
  • Considered the "fringe" of downtown.
  • One of Indianapolis' major combined sewers run through the edge of the site...though it runs under Lucas Oil as well so it's not a deal breaker.
FINAL ASSESSMENT - Potential, but also not without effort.

What's my final assessment?  I would love to see the Indy Eleven playing at Military Park, because it "checks all the boxes" except for the difficulty with using the site by eliminating one of the major open air locations in the city.  Though I think the Sand Street site makes the most sense from a logistical perspective.  It's downtown, near Lucas Oil Stadium, with land that could be readily available.

So what would this stadium look like?  Remember, Peter Wilt joked about it being based off of Estadio Municipal de Braga in Spain?

The laughable part is that the stadium was built into a hill, which is definitely not a problem here in Indianapolis.  Let me explain why I don't think the design should be considered a joke from Peter.

Estadio Axa seats +30,000 spectators without a single seat located on the ends.  One end is the hill and the other end overlooks the town.  So figure roughly 15,000 people per side, 7,500 per level and every single person has a view of the field from endline to endline.  Take out 10,000 of those seats to reduce the size to a more appropriate level for the Eleven, throw in a bunch of requisite suites on both sides, a press box, a grass field, and you have an Indy Eleven Military Park inspired by Estadio Municipal de Braga.  If there is ever a need or desire, one or both of the ends can be enclosed and more seats added.

You know what else is interesting?  The dollar amount that the Indy Eleven put forth for the estimated cost of the stadium was $85M.  The cost of el Estadio en Braga in 2003?  $83M.  Hmm.  Remove the cost associated with building in a hill and then add back in the cost associated with 10 years of inflation and you're probably back up around $80-$85M.

So was Peter Wilt joking or not?  Will it be Municipal de Indy?  Military Park or Sand Street Stadium?  Only time will tell.

Unless Peter Wilt or Tom Dunmore want to chime in and give us some bigger hints...

UPDATE: As part of the dialogue on the Indy Eleven Reddit about this post, I'm providing three more aerial views of options.


  • All the benefits of the existing location except with a stadium, better suited to soccer.
    • CONS:

    • The team has to find another temporary location while this one is being constructed.  I don't see them wanting to use the existing stadium as the "base" and building off of it.  Demo and replace.
      • What happens to IUPUI's track?
      FINAL ASSESSMENT - Potential, if you eliminate the stadium completely and find another temporary location to play.


      • All the benefits of the existing location except with a stadium, better suited to soccer.


      • The team has to find another temporary location while this one is being constructed.  I don't see them wanting to use the existing stadium as the "base" and building off of it.  Demo and replace.
      • What happens to IUPUI's track?

      FINAL ASSESSMENT - Potential, if you eliminate the stadium completely and find another temporary location to play.  The issue of having goalkeepers looking into the sunset may be reduced with the stadium design.

      YORK STREET (Proposed by NSmith22 on Reddit/r/IndyEleven)
      • Relatively close to downtown.
      • Appropriately sized for a soccer-specific stadium.
      • On the "fringe" of downtown, but close.
      • Can the land be purchased or does the existing owner already have a plan in place?
      • Parking?
      FINAL ASSESSMENT - Potential, but also not without effort.

      UPDATE #2
      MASS AVE (Proposed by madman1101 on Reddit/r/IndyEleven)


      • Close to downtown.
      • Located in an area that embraces soccer.
      • Located next to the North Split with I-70 and I-65.
      • Entire property appears to be owned by City of Indianapolis (at least peripherally through the schools).


      • Parking?
      • Embracing soccer and embracing the traffic through their neighborhood might be two different things (whether that is car or foot traffic).  This location is much closer to residences than any of the other alternatives and their input would need to be included and addressed.
      FINAL ASSESSMENT - Potential.

      16TH AND FALL CREEK (I originally rejected it, but it was proposed by madman1101 so I'm reconsidering my stance)

      • Nice open area, currently being used as a city park, so it's already owned by the City.
      • Could incorporate park-like features in design so that park isn't completely lost.
      • Across the street from UPS, so could be a future business partner.  UPS Park?  UPS Stadium?
      • Large open field across Fall Creek on Milburn (owned by Indiana University) that might be able to be used for parking.  Provide a pedestrian bridge over the creek for access and incorporate into the surroundings.
      • The City would like this area to be better utilized.
      • Not far from  Kuntz Stadium, which I already mentioned as having some historical significance.
      • Floodplain.  While they can be overcome, as an engineer, I hate the idea of building in a floodplain.  It wouldn't be the first time that the City has taken a natural receiving stream and put it underground in tunnels (Pogue's Run), but that would definitely require additional engineering and governmental approvals beyond just the City and State.
      FINAL ASSESSMENT - Potential.


      Don said...

      Isn't the stamping plant being used by the city for a correctional center?

      I don't see Military Park ever being used. I believe it is on the National Historical Registry.

      Drew said...

      True, part of the stamping plant is to be used for a correctional center. I referenced an Indy Star article and in that they indicate that the correctional facility will be on the same site as the concert venue. I don't know all the details of how the two facilities will use the site.

      I know, I don't see Military Park being a viable option, but it's a nice location for a stadium.

      mason said...

      Can you give me an email? Love to post this there as well.

      Jeff C.. said...

      Thanks for posting this. I'm intrigued by the Mass Ave idea (having spent a fair bit of time at the Chatham Tap), but on seeing the aerial view I don't see it as viable. The site currently is home not just to a bus parking lot but to a block of businesses; acquisition could be tricky. More significantly, there isn't room for parking. Given the difficulty I've sometimes had in the area on nights that didn't involve bringing over 10,000 people into the are, I just can't see this working.

      Oh, and Military Park is a no-go. No way an important, historic open space, integral to the canal and already used for a number of public events, is going to be given over to a soccer stadium that might be used 30 times a year.

      Anonymous said...

      Great post! You obviously spent a lot of time researching this. This deserves a wider audience, though not living around Indiana and its soccer community, I do not know how.

      Anonymous said...

      This makes for a nice chat; but I can not take someone seriously when they suggest putting a soccer stadium on Military Park.

      Drew said...

      Thanks for stopping by Anonymous. I was looking to have a nice chat about the stadium locations and Military Park would not be where I want a stadium either. I went into the post with the intent of finding land downtown that I thought was big enough to fit a stadium and Military Park fit the bill. It met some of the criteria for what people would want in a stadium location so I discussed it further.

      I much prefer other sites for a new stadium, but evaluated it for completeness.

      Anonymous said...

      I wouldn't give up on the stamping plant. It seems like it is the most viable. Hopefully the positives of a joint venture will be seen. You'd think that Lucas would want more a multi-purpose facility.

      It seems like Indy would best served with a multi-purpose facility on the former GM site and the promised upgrades to the White River Park Amphitheater

      Anonymous said...

      Military Park can not be "sold," stated in the Indiana Constitution.