Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Indy Eleven Season 3 Preview - Cautionsly Optimistic Expectations Edition

The Indy Eleven off-season has been a busy one. Let's take a look at where they've been, where they are, and I'll give my thoughts on where I think they're going.

The Indy Eleven finished the 2015 season with a 8W-9D-13L overall record with a 5th place finish in the Spring Season, a 9th place finish in the Fall Season, for a 9th place overall finish. Before the Spring Season concluded, the team fired Coach Sommer and placed the Interim Coach title to previously title Assistant Coach Regan. With that limited amount of success in the record books and working with an Interim Head Coach, things were bound to change. 

I talked a little about the hiring of Coach Hankinson here, so I'm not going to go into much detail here. I also touched on the initial 8 players that were re-signed from last season in that article, so let's dive down into the rest of the roster moves for a bit. The Eleven created great election style banners for each of the player announcements so I'm going to use them here as I discuss the signings. I hope they don't mind.

These are the initial 8 players that the team re-signed: Janicki, Franco, Miller, Mares, Stojkov, Smart, Wojcik, and Lacroix. Three defenders, three midfielders, and two forwards. A total of 11,772 minutes of last year's team, or just under 40% of the total team minutes from last season.  As I indicated in my other post, these guys all seem to fit into the "warrior" mentality that Coach Hankinson wants for this year's team. While scoring was an issue at times for this team, I think keeping Woj and Lacroix had a lot to do with the fact they are young guys who are still learning the professional game, but their size and speed, respectively, are key to their return. I like this group and think it's a good core group to start a roster rebuild. Given Janicki's history with Coach Hankinson, he's the only player from this group that I expect to be one of the opening day starters, but I think they all are going to be able to compete for starter roles. Mares, Franco, Miller, and Smart have shown they have starter ability and if they have used the off-season to improve, they will push for those roles regardless of who was signed after them. Stojkov's warrior attitude will endear him to Coach Hankinson so he'll find some minutes. Wojcik and Lacroix are still young guys with lots to learn, but I see them as substitutes. If Lacroix can find a little more consistency, he may find himself in the "super sub" role that has been Smart's the past three seasons, as his speed late in the game against an opposing team's tired legs could be a nice weapon to have.

Brad Ring was the next player from last year's roster to make his way back, bringing the team to 44% of last year's minutes retained. Ring's signing marked the start of the direction for the 2016 team. Experience. At just 28, Ring is one of the oldest players being re-signed from last year's roster, but he was able to be a steady force in the defensive midfield spot and I think he'll again fight for time at that position this season. Like the rest of the returning players, Ring fits into that "warrior" description that Coach Hankinson wants this team to embody so I'm glad to see him back.

Sinisa Ubiparipovic - Signed 12/15/2015
Indy's first non-returning player was Sinisa Ubiparipovic, the first of what would become three players from last year's runner-up team Ottawa Fury. At this point in the roster signings, it's hard to say which players will be starters and which ones will be substitutes, but Ubiparipovic will be an opening day starter. He's the first of a trend of veteran signings for the Indy Eleven, but he was signed from Ottawa to take the playmaker role that was missing at times last season. Mares has shown glimpses of what he's able to do, but Ubiparipovic brings a more experienced view of the field than Mares can bring at this stage in his career. I'm not convinced that the presence of Ubiparipovic means that Mares will be relegated to the bench, but he's going to have to use the work ethic that took him from season one level to season two level and bring it up to compete for the starting spot against Ubiparipovic. The team had visions of Kleberson being that playmaker role last season and his injury meant that the team spent the entire season trying to find the right depth at that position. Ubiparipovic and Mares brings the team that depth again.

Daniel Keller & Keith Cardona
The Eleven went back to signing a couple of last year's players after signing Ubiparipovic by re-signing Daniel Keller and Keith Cardona. With these two players, which would turn out to be the last two players re-signed from last year's team, the minutes retained is brought up to just over 50%. I continue to harp on that statistic because of what I have noticed in the past couple seasons and these two players are good signings for how it looks like Coach Hankinson wants to go with this team. I don't see Keller getting starter minutes yet, but he was more than a serviceable holding midfielder this past season. He's a young local guy who I think is going to relish the opportunity to improve and play some valuable minutes throughout the season. I'm glad to see Cardona back, but based on the later signings I don't see him as the starting keeper. He has tons of ability and he's getting a great role model to learn from this season. More on both of these guys after I talk about the rest of the roster additions.

Neil Shaffer & Eamon Zayed - Signed 12/23/2015
The new signings began in earnest when the team announced the additions of Neil Shaffer and Eamon Zayed right before Christmas. Zayed's signing proved to me that I might as well stop guessing what players the Eleven were going to be signing because they went to the other side of the world for this signing. The guy is a prolific goal scorer and for a team that struggled to put the ball in the back of the net last season, I don't see any way this guy doesn't make it onto the opening day starting lineup. My hope is that he scores that game and just continues to show the NASL what he has shown in every other league he has played. Neil Shaffer is listed as a midfielder, but it is expected that he will see some time at left back as well. Though, I think he will be providing depth in that position based on subsequent signings.

Lovel Palmer - Signed 01/12/2016
Lovel Palmer comes from the Chicago Fire as a hard-working, fan-friendly defender. He's played for the Jamaican National team, has played for a Jamaican Premier League winning team in Harbour View, and was a frequent starter for the Chicago Fire last season. Palmer will likely be the starting right back for the Eleven, meaning Franco will be working to provide depth at the right back position. There's also the possibility that Palmer could play in that defensive midfielder position with Franco on the right back. I think he's going to make some fans for his play on the field, but off the field, I have yet to hear an interview with him where I didn't think to myself that this guy is going to make a ton more fans for his eagerness to interact with them.

Colin Falvey - Signed 01/15/2016
Colin Falvey continued the Indy Eleven trend this off-season of signing Ottawa Fury players. The team has said that nobody is a lock as a starter, but I don't see any way that Falvey doesn't make the starting lineup. He's an organizing defender whose unafraid of tackles and was part of the stout Ottawa defense that gave up a paltry 15 goals in the entirety of their games in the Fall Season, which included 4 goals in the Championship and only 23 goals overall. Since I believe Janicki is the other center as the front-runner for the center back position and that Coach Hankinson thinks Janicki works best with someone else organizing, I hope this pairing gels quickly.

Justin Braun & Nemanja Vukovic - Signed 01/19/2016
Justin Braun and Nemanja Vukovic both join the Eleven from Sacramento FC of the USL, further adding to the Eleven's plan of buying in bulk. When the team signed Eamon Zayed, that's when I knew that my limited knowledge of the available soccer players was going to be drastically challenged this year. While Braun and Vukovic are at least a part of the American soccer scene, I honestly don't know a lot about them, but coming from a winning team like Sacramento can only help the culture of the Indy Eleven, which is desperate to get over that hump of competing, but not getting good results. I think both of these guys are going to be providing the depth needed to keep the team healthy through the entirety of the season.

Jon Busch - Signed 01/22/2016
A 5'-10", 165 lb goalkeeper who will turn 40 before the end of the year may not seem like a very sexy choice to anchor the defense, but Jon Busch has carried a chip on his shoulder his entire career because of the opinions of his size and it has not let him down. A 40-year old goalkeeper doesn't bother me and the team summarized exactly why Busch is a great addition to this team when they wrote his bio. "The 39-year-old Busch racked up a 113W-92D-101L record in MLS regular season play and ranks fourth in league history in goalkeeper games played (309), shutouts (83) and saves (1,151) and fifth in wins. The native of Queens, N.Y., helped Columbus (2004) and San Jose (2012) to MLS regular season Supporters Shield titles, won the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with the Crew and earned the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award and earned a spot on the MLS Best XI Team with the Fire in 2008."

Nicki Paterson - Signed 01/26/2016
The Indy Eleven have a 1W-0D-5L record against the Ottawa Fury in the team's two years in the league and have been outscored by them by a 2 to 1 ratio. Nicki Paterson completed the Indy Eleven's off-season motto in regards to the Ottawa Fury of "if you can't beat 'em, sign 'em." So now the Indy Eleven have the backbone of last year's runner-up Ottawa Fury. Winners who have a hunger to get back to the Championship and experience it with better results is going to be what drives these guys this season. I hope all of them come into this season with a chip on their shoulder and that fire in the belly.

Gorka Larrea - Signed 02/10/2016
I'm going to be honest, when the team announced this signing, I immediately thought that Gorka Larrea looked like he could be related to Cory Miller. The team agreed with him and tweeted this image later. I expect Larrea to be providing depth in the midfield, but he's another player that is going to be able to provide a seasoned voice to the team.

Stephen Deroux - Signed 02/12/2016
The signing of a left back has been teased by the team for a long time and the Eleven's signing of former San Antonio left back Stephen Deroux filled an obvious gap in the team's roster. I feel like I could write this about all of the team's former players and new signings (and that's a testament to the team that Coach Hankinson, Coach Regan, and out-going President and GM Peter Wilt), but Deroux fits the bill of being a warrior and has been a staple to the San Antonio defense the past three years. Deroux is the last piece in what should be a very formidable backline this season.

Dino Williams - Signed 02/23/2016
Today, the Eleven made official what has been rumored for about a month and is expected to be the final signing unless something comes of any of the trialists that make the trip with them to Arizona next week. Dino Williams joins the Eleven from Montego Bay United where he was recently coached by the Eleven's newly hired Coach Hankinson. Williams was previously also a trialist with the Eleven in 2014 before getting injured so he's been on the Eleven's radar for awhile. He leaves the Jamaican Premier League having scored 14 goals in 16 games so he comes to the team in good form. Whether that form translates from the Jamaican Premier League to the NASL will be determined. Williams' signing brings the official number of forwards on the team to 5, but I anticipate that in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Coach Hankinson has previously indicated would be how the team starts (at least on paper), four of the forwards are chasing Eamon for that role. Coach Hankinson has indicated that Williams is "a dangerous performer on the wings" so Williams may find his way onto the field in that role.

While I made several jokes about the Indy Eleven signing multiple players from the same team, I think it's a wise move. For starters, it means that there are guys on the team that are already familiar with each other and so it reduces, even if ever so slightly, their need to learn the habits of one more guy. They have a base to start. With a 23-man roster where only 11 of them are returners from next year, there are still a lot of connections between the other 12 players that should help make this a smooth transition for them all. I think I'm correct in saying that only Shaffer, Zayed, and Larrea are the only players who don't have some kind of direct experience with one of the other players or coaches. 

This could be said about a lot of the positions, but the off-season signings have provided a lot of depth at all of the positions with guys who are capable of playing in multiple roles and locations. This will serve the team well during the 32 game season (plus whatever comes of the U.S. Cup and any international friendlies that might get added between the Spring and Fall Seasons). Before Larrea, Deroux, and Williams became official signings, the team posted the below graphic showing the possible combinations of the players as they might fit into Coach Hankinson's 4-2-3-1 formation.

Looking at all of the players that have now been signed, and without any knowledge of how the practices are going and who is clicking with each other, my best guess on the starting XI is as follows:






Though like I said above, I think Lacroix's speed is going to be help him get into games late to exploit opposing team's tired legs. Stojkov is going to get minutes because he personifies Coach Hankinson's warrior mentality, as will Miller for the exact same reason. In fact, I think if Miller can become a more effective header in the offensive third (and we all know his ability in the defensive third), I would like to see him late in games as an aerial option, particularly in dead ball situations.

On paper, I really like this roster. The average age of the returning players is 25.6 years old, while the average age of the new signings is 30.75 years old. Dino Williams at age 25, is still older than more than half of the returning players from last year. This team has some really good young talent that is now being led by older, experienced, winning players. I think the backline has the potential to be one of the best in the league, with the ability to bring in two of the more consistent players from last season in Miller and Franco. Combine that with a Goalkeeper of the Year winner in Busch behind them and the defense is going to be tough to beat. If Zayed and Williams can provide anywhere close to the production that they have had through their careers and recent season, respectively, then one of last season's problem areas will be highly upgraded.

I want to go into this season gung-ho optimistic, but I'm not there yet. Let me see how some of this pre-season games go before I remove the cautiously optimistic label.

Friday, February 19, 2016

An Airport Stadium?

I wasn't planning on writing about this because it seems so speculative, but there was an article in today's Indy Star that was enough to push me to write. The article by John Tuohy, was titled "Developer wants to draw pro sports team to airport stadium" in the online edition, but was titled "If he builds it, will pro team come? in the paper edition. I'm going to pull from the online edition text as appropriate. Today's article was proceeded by an article yesterday titled "$500M sports medicine complex chosen for airport site".

The first article stated:
The developer, the Athlete's Business Network, said its development would employ 3,000 workers. Built on 130 acres south of Washington Street near High School Road, the complex would have five medical office buildings that specialize in sports performance, substance abuse sports medicine, and orthopedics and sports medical technology. The centerpiece, called the ABN Global Center for Brain Health, would focus on brain trauma.

Plans also call for two 250-room hotels and a 20,000-seat stadium. The project would be built in two phases.
Like I'm sure many Indy Eleven fans, the words "20,000-seat stadium" has become the de facto number of seats for soccer specific stadiums and so the words jumped off the screen at me. However, it's vagueness was enough for me to dismiss it as not worthy writing a post about it. The concept of a stadium at the airport isn't new. I even did two versions of it (again using the Chicago Fire's Toyota Park as my basis), but never discussed it because of the Indy Eleven's repeated desire to be in Downtown Indy. The first option I did had it located in the place of the old terminal, which is a location that the City and the Indianapolis Airport Authority would desperately like to have developed again.

Airport Option at the old Terminal site
The second option moved it to the other side of High School Road because of my perceived difficulties with placing a soccer stadium directly within the airfield.
Option across the High School Road, east of the old Terminal site
There is more space than the Eleven have indicated they would need, but it is close to transportation, is a part of town that the City would like to have look like more than a massive amount of concrete parking lot, and has available hotels in the immediate vicinity, making it a reasonably desirable site. Though, can you imagine spending two hours at the game and having a fly-over every 90 seconds?

One other clarification quickly, the first article and the subsequent articles refer to "developing the former terminal site at the Indianapolis International Airport." I don't believe that the developer has plans to develop the terminal site WEST of High School Road, when you look at the rendering provided in the article.
Rendering taken from Indy Star article
To me, that looks like the complex is being wedged between I-465 on the East and High School Road on the West. The right side of the rendering looks like the On/Off ramps for the Sam Jones Expressway.  Coincidentally (or not), the area between those two thoroughfares is 130 acres.

So I think the plan is more similar to my second alternative. The facility is being proposed by a developer, the Athlete's Business Network, in partnership with:
developers The Pataki-Cahill Group of New York; Walsh Construction Co. of Chicago; construction company The Hagerman Group of Indianapolis; real estate consultant Johnson Consulting of Chicago; investment bank Ziegler and global design firm Gensler of Houston.
Two of those are construction companies that are likely in frequent competition with Indy Eleven's owner Ersal Ozdemir's company, Keystone Construction. This piece by itself was enough for me to feel that this venture did not include the desires of the Indy Eleven, but was something that I would continue to watch progress to determine the realistic possibility of the stadium component to the complex.

I didn't expect that only a day later, more details would be provided that were even more confusing. While the first article didn't provide many details of a stadium, the follow-up article was much more explicit.
The developer of a $500 million medical complex on the site of the old Indianapolis International Airport terminal said he is talking with out-of-state professional sports organizations about moving to a stadium on the city's west side.

Included in Athletes Business Network Holdings’ plan for a five-building complex is a 20,000-seat stadium or arena to host entertainment and sports events year-round and be the home field/ice/court for a pro team.

ABN co-founder Craig Sanders said he has had serious talks with representatives of pro sports teams about locating at the new stadium.

“We are having very active discussions with sports organizations outside of Indiana, professional and amateur," Sanders said, though he declined to name which organizations.
There's a lot in that little segment that could be both good or bad for the Indy Eleven's hopes of getting their own stadium. First the bad. Is Sanders in discussion with another soccer team from any of the three higher tiers of American soccer, MLS, NASL, or USL? I limit it to those three tiers because I don't believe any teams in lower tiers have attendance figures that would necessitate a 20,000 seat stadium. If he has had those discussions, a privately funded stadium would certainly hamper the Indy Eleven's current legislative route of helping to pay for the stadium. The article implies that the stadium could be used by the Indy Eleven, but that isn't any more advantageous to the team than its current arrangement, where it would still be paying rent to play there and not be able to control the money that is made there for other events. Plus, it means a direct competitor for supporters.

The good news is that it would seem unlikely that an existing MLS team would relocate here because that would have made the rumors by now. It makes absolutely no sense for a NASL team to relocate here because there is already a team here and the NASL wouldn't expand in that fashion. So that leaves a USL team. A league that mandates that all teams have a soccer specific stadium by 2020. I'm sure if I dug deep enough, I could find a USL team unhappy with their current location, but enough that they would risk moving to a new city to directly compete for fans of an existing team? I don't think so. The Indy Eleven may have the highest attendance in the NASL, but I'm not convinced that it could support two professional soccer teams.

It just doesn't seem to make good business sense to build a stadium for a relocated soccer team in a city that already has a team. That extends further down the major professional sports market for Indianapolis.
NFL team? Check.
NBA team? Check.
WNBA team? Check.
Professional hockey? Check.
Professional baseball? Check.

Professional soccer?
Men's team? Check.
Women's team? Not checked. Could it be a NWSL team with the hopes of bringing in the Eleven as a partner to use the facilities. Possibly, but I don't see a team relocating within the league. A new team maybe, but I still think that an explicit partnership between the Indy Eleven and a NWSL team would be beneficial for both teams, not just them using the same facilities. I don't think those conversations have occurred based on the rest of the article (see text below).

Indianapolis loves sports and have built a reputation as such, but with the exception of possibly adding a women's soccer team, supporting multiple professional teams within the same sport/league seems a bit much.

Then the article went off the rails for me:
"but Sanders said he had not been in contact with team owner Ersal Ozdemir.
A spokesman for the Fuel could not be reached, but the minor league hockey team  is in a long-term agreement to play its home games at Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the State Fairgrounds. Likewise, baseball's minor league Indianapolis Indians recently signed a 20-year lease extension to stay at Victory Field Downtown.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Joe Hogsett said the mayor had no advance knowledge of the medical center plan or the sports stadium.

Barry Levengood, executive director of the Capital Improvement Board, which oversees the city-owned pro sports venues Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Victory Field, said that in his 25 years with the board, it never discussed getting another sports team.
Sanders said his stadium also could host top-level amateur events, such as the NCAA’s Final Four, without stealing thunder from Lucas Oil Stadium or Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

"Our objective is to be a collaborative partner and help elevate the city as a whole,” Sanders said. “Especially as various other entities seek to develop sports infrastructure Downtown.”
So you want to be a collaborative partner and you haven't talked to a single entity within the City (or State?) that runs a sports organization or doesn't already have a long-term agreement in place for their home games? The stadium portion of the proposal seems completely unrealistic to me now and there's a reason why it's included in Phase 2 of their plan. I don't know to whom Sanders has been discussing the plan, but I don't think it's anybody in Indiana willing to tell him the plan seems flawed.

I assume they haven't gone into this concept completely haphazardly, but my two day old evaluation of the plan has me wondering how anybody would take the rest of the proposal seriously. Particularly when the rest of the plan includes hotels totaling 500 rooms in a part of town that can't routinely fill the hotels that are already located there. While the articles continue to reference the Indy Eleven, including providing a photo of Woj in the second article, I firmly believe that a stadium near the airport is not in the team's plans and Indy Eleven is only being mentioned by the Indy Star because of the recent stadium discussions with the team.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Politics of Soccer

In a couple of months, I will have been writing this blog and about the Indy Eleven for two years. In that time frame, I have written about wins, losses, players, coaches, tactics, and the business of soccer. I hate writing about the losses, but even more so, I hate writing about the business of soccer. Even though the predominant topic of the writing is about a professional team in the Indy Eleven, I still often think about soccer in terms of the child-like joy it brings me and not the business of it. Men getting to play a game. A game that I have loved since I was a little kid. Men getting to do what I wish I could do.

Player signings and releases, coach firings, the departure of Peter Wilt so that he can work to get a competitor into the league, the hiring of a new President, and a future hire of a General Manager to replace all of Wilt's duties; all of this constitutes the business of soccer.  All of this is what takes the child-like joy out of writing about my favorite team.  Yet, I recently became aware that there is an aspect of writing about soccer that I enjoy even less than the business of soccer.

The politics of soccer.

It's always been there as I've been writing about the Indy Eleven, but it's been more of an unspoken player.  I think it was because it was more wrapped into the business and economics of soccer that I let myself gloss over the politics of it. Yet, the way that the club has pursued the funding of a new stadium through the Indiana Legislature makes it clearly a political venture and a piece of the puzzle since before the team ever played a single game. The politics of soccer has always been there, it's just now more apparent to me.

There was an article published in the Indianapolis Business Journal, dated January 20, 2016, entitled "State lawmaker tells Indy Eleven owner 'be a man,' pony up for stadium". In the article:
Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told IBJ on Tuesday he’s not expecting any movement on a soccer stadium during this year’s legislative session—and not ever unless Ozdemir, the Eleven’s owner, agrees to kick in significant funding for the project.

“I keep telling him to stand up and be a man,” Kenley said. “If you’re a real capitalist, you should have money of your own in this. He’s one of those developers who’s had a little success and who realizes if he can get government to pay for this or that, then that’s a good deal for him. He acts like that’s pro forma.”
Obviously, this made a lot of noise with the Indy Eleven fans. Some have questioned where Senator Kenley stood on the $870M funding of Lucas Oil Stadium. Well, it turns out that he was part of the process that put together that deal.
According to the agreement negotiated between city and state officials, taxpayers were responsible for funding 87 percent of the stadium. That makes Lucas Oil Stadium the most heavily taxpayer-subsidized stadium in the country.
State Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) helped put together the final deal and says city officials knew they were responsible for finding money for the operating expenses.
I have been told that Senator Kenley has indicated that part of the difference between the Lucas Oil Stadium deal and any Indy Eleven Stadium deal is that Jim Irsay put in money himself and that Ersal Ozdemir has not stepped up to any extent in his proposals.  While I disagree with that since the versions that went through last year included using one of Mr. Ozdemir's hotel properties to make up any shortfall each year that was not achieved through the use of the stadium, let's also look further at the Irsay piece of the pie. The other 13% beyond the 87% that the taxpayers  were responsible was contributed by Jim Irsay...
Colts owner Jim Irsay was able to cover his 13 percent portion of the cost when he sold the naming rights to the Lucas Oil company for $120 million.
So isn't that Lucas Oil that put the money in?  Couldn't Ersal Ozdemir do the same thing for the soccer stadium? Just for simplicity and talking purposes (and for those not wanting to do the math), 13% of the $85M that the team originally suggested as a starting point is $11M. Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance agreed to a 10-year $6M naming rights deal for the Coliseum at the State Fairgrounds. I have to think that the team could find somebody willing to do at least that, maybe all $11M. Has this not been part of the discussion and when did Irsay acquire the Lucas Oil money in the process of that stadium funding?

Put all of that politics in your memory bank for now.  Three days after that IBJ article, there was another one that seems to have gone completely unnoticed by many Indy Eleven fans, but I think speaks volumes. That article was titled, "Key lawmaker wants state to buy GM site for green space". I'll give you three guesses which lawmaker wants the space. That's right, Senator Luke Kenley,
One of the most-powerful members of the Indiana Senate wants the state to buy the 102-acre General Motors stamping plant site on the western edge of downtown and turn it into an expansion of White River State Park.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, wants lawmakers to allocate funding for the purchase when they craft the next two-year budget in the spring of 2017.

“For the long-term benefit of the state and Indianapolis, it’s better to have the whole 100 acres and dedicate it to White River State Park,” he said. “You only get one chance at a piece of property like this. It would be silly not to try to consummate that deal.”
Kenley’s proposal would not necessarily derail the widely discussed plan to build a $30 million, 10,000-seat amphitheater on the eastern half of the property. He said he’s open to using some of the land for a concert venue, but doesn’t want any restrictions on the state’s purchase.
Local developer REI Investments Inc. last year agreed to buy 51-1/2 acres on the east side of the property for the $30 million concert venue. It would build the project in partnership with White River State Park, Live Nation and the Indianapolis Zoo.
Construction of the amphitheater can’t proceed without the state’s blessing, however, since it hinges on the state’s ponying up half the $30 million cost.

Kenley said he has discussed buying the site with Gov. Mike Pence and REI President Mike Wells. He expects the purchase price would be well under $15 million.

Under REI’s plan, it would develop the venue, White River State Park would own it, and Live Nation would run it. Live Nation also runs Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville and the Old National Centre downtown.
There's a lot there that's interesting to me, but the old GM stamping plant locale has always been one that Indy Eleven fans have thought would make for a great location for a new soccer specific stadium and was one of the first that I discussed in my first potential stadium location posts, but had to eliminate because it appeared to have other uses. It's also a site that I believe Mr. Ozdemir made a bid to get at the time. It's close to downtown, access to major roads and transportation, and plenty of space for the stadium (and practice facilities?), parking, and other development. What's interesting to me about Senator Kenley's proposal is that a business would develop the site, but it would be owned by the State, and another business would run it. How are those businesses being paid for their efforts? Isn't that from the taxpayers, as well as the $15M for the site coming from the taxpayers too? Will 100 acres be able to generate any income to the state or will it only be taking from the taxpayers?

I find it interesting that the same politician that tells a businessman to "man up" and put some of his own cash into a venture turns around three days later and suggests that the state provide $15M to fund a public park on a piece of property that would seem like it could be used by other businesses, including by the same businessman that he told to "man up."

It's been the general consensus among many Indy Eleven fans that the new President of the team, Jeff Belskus, was brought in as much for his past experience with navigating the political landscape in Indianapolis from his time with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as he was for his business ability. Mr. Belskus is here to run the business side of Indy Eleven with the departure of Peter Wilt, but that likely includes the creation of a new stadium as one of his highest priorities. That's my assumption...

Which may be why 7 days after Senator Kenley told Ersal Ozdemir to "man up," and 4 days after indicating that he wants the State to purchase the 100 acres of the GM stamping plant for $15M, Jeff Belskus tweeted this:

I officially hate the politics of soccer more than I hate normal politics. Shaking hands, kissing babies, and seemingly playing games with my childhood love.