Friday, February 23, 2018

A fan tribute to Carroll Stadium

As the Indy Eleven prepare for their fifth season, change is the word that best signifies where the team stands. Starting with a change in leagues from the NASL to the USL, the team has combined that with a change of coach in Martin Rennie, a complete overhaul in the roster that has more new faces than at any other time after the first season, and a venue change from Carroll Stadium to Lucas Oil Stadium. Before all that change manifests itself into the team's home opener next month against FC Cincinnati, I thought I would take a moment to honor the team's home this past four seasons. Sometimes it's nice to know where you are by knowing where you've been.

IU's Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium on the campus of IUPUI has been the Indy Eleven's home since its first game on April 12, 2014 and #TheMike has seen its share of highs and lows in four seasons of play. When The Eleven opened the gates of Carroll Stadium for its first spectators, it did so with a makeshift environment of a fresh coat of paint, Porta-Potties to supplement the limited restroom facilities, and concession stands operating out of cargo containers. All to varying degrees of effectiveness (or not) that first game. While the facilities were not ideal or plush, the environment has always been one of a rabid fanbase, ever present to support the Boys in Blue.

From the barrage of losses and draws that continued to frustrate the 10,000+ fans the first season until well into the Fall Season to the game on October 11, 2014 versus Minnesota United that spawned one of the greatest moments in team history as fans rushed the field to celebrate the cathartic first home win with the players.There was the epic game in May 2015 versus the Rowdies that saw an early goal by Mares turn into a 2 hour and 3 minute rain delay, finishing with a desperation rocket from Kyle Hyland in the 97'+ to salvage a draw, despite having been up at least one man from the 73rd minute (the Rowdies would ultimately finish with 8 guys). That game would also serve as the final match for the team's first head coach, as Peter Wilt removed Juergen Sommer from his position just a couple days later. The Mike bore witness to the 16 game undefeated streak to start the 2016 campaign (& 11 game home undefeated streak dating back to the end of the 2015 season), which included the #MiracleAtTheMike as the Eleven scored an improbable four goals versus North Carolina to be able to wrap up the Spring championship and win their first piece of hardware. The Mike also had to watch the same teams repeatedly arrive at its doorstep as a depleted NASL struggled to stay afloat in 2017.

Undated Model of the Stadium
With the help of the IUPUI University Library Archives and the University Architect's Office (thank you Greg and Jim, respectively), I've been able to track down interesting information and photographs of the stadium that we may have only peripherally knew about as the Brickyard Battalion's voice echoed through the stadium, the smell of post-goal celebration smoke bombs blanketed the field, and the grand stand's metal seats reverberated throughout the IUPUI campus during corner kicks. The Eleven have called the stadium home since 2014, but the stadium has been a part of the fabric of the sports scene in Indianapolis since July 1982, when the first event ever held at the facility was the USA-USSR Dual Track and Field Meet.

At the December 5, 1980 Board of Trustees of Indiana University meeting:
"3.B.(1); Track Stadium - Outdoor Activities Area, Indianapolis Campus.
Approval of the Board was requested to expand the previously approved Outdoor Activities Area project at the Indianapolis campus to include construction of a track stadium with a seating capacity of approximately 10,000 and an artificial track surface. Estimated at a cost of $3,836,780, the total project will be supported by $1,915,000 requested as part of the University's 1981-83 Capital Appropriations request and $1,921,780 in gifts to Indiana University. 
Should the project cost exceed the $3,836,780 estimate, funds necessary to complete the project must be generated through additional gifts to the University. 
Unanimously approved, on motion duly made and seconded."
This paved the way for the design of a 10,000 seat Track and Field Stadium to be located on the IUPUI campus. However, it wasn't until the Board of Trustees meeting on June 6, 1981, where "Approval of the Board was requested to proceed with the planning and bidding process for an Outdoor Activities Area on the Indianapolis campus. The amount of $1,915,000 was approved as part of the University's 1981-83 Capital Appropriation request. An additional $1,500,000 in gift money will supplement approved State funding, which, makes available $3,415,000 for the development of instructional facilities for the School of Physical Education, as well as construction of competition outdoor track. Browning, Day, Pollak, Mullins Associates, Indianapolis, Indiana, will provide design services for this project."

Excerpt from Athletic Facilities Brochure, 1982
Ultimately, the stadium cost grew to $5.9-million and included 12,117 permanent seats with temporary space for another 7,000 in bleachers. Of the $5.9-million price tag, $4-million of it was obtained from private funds. If you've ever wondered why there are ramps on the east side of the stadium behind the temporary bleachers that the Eleven placed for the #EastEnd crowd, they are to allow for marathons to enter and exit the track. While not currently configured for it, the stadium also included "set-ups for long, triple, and high jumps, pole vault, discus, shotput, and hammer throw." There were also "facilities for javelin throw, steeplechase, and water jumps." The stadium was truly designed for track and field; something that the Eleven front office has been stating since before the team's first game in the stadium.

In fact, the architect of the stadium, Mark Peters of Browning, Day, Pollack, Mullins, Dierdorf Associates, Inc., explained in a fact sheet I received from the Archive's office why the "facility slopes upward from north to south, which permits the greatest number of seats to be concentrated at the south end where the finish line is located by saying":
Track and Field Stadium Exterior, 1982
“Other stadia are symmetrical because they are designed for sports other than just track and field. Football and soccer, for example. I wanted the greatest number of people as close as possible to the site of the climactic action of the event. This not only includes track but covers the javelin throw, the high jump, the shot put, and the hammer and discus throw.” Peters added that he was unaware of stadium like it in the world, and certainly none in the U.S. Indiana University architect Ray Casati agreed and added that asymmetrical shape “has given a lot of character to the form of the stadium.”
Photo credit: Matt Schlotzhauer
The stadium was purposefully designed to place the greatest number of people near the finish line of the races, which inherently seems like a great idea in retrospect, but seems to be a groundbreaking design at the time. In addition to that overload of spectators hovered around the finish line of the track, its East-West orientation has also created a challenge when playing evening soccer games at the venue. The Indiana setting sun shines brightly into the eyes of the goalkeeper that is unfortunate enough to have to face that direction in the first half. In the four years of playing at Carroll Stadium, the Indy Eleven have had 68 home games and have been able to start the game with the keeper defending the West goal 65% of the time to try and avoid the setting sun issue. When that was not feasible, the wily veteran Jon Busch periodically resorted to wearing a baseball cap to help keep the sun out of his eyes. Wearing a hat is not unheard of in professional soccer, but it's certainly one of the many different aspects of playing a game at Carroll Stadium.

The stadium that the Eleven know as Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium hasn't always been known by that time. It wasn't until the Board of Trustees meeting on May 8, 1998 that Trustee Morris suggested renaming it after Michael Carroll.
"Trustee Morris said it was his pleasure to offer a motion to name the Indiana University track and field stadium in Indianapolis in honor and memory of Michael A. Carroll. Mike Carroll was an extraordinary person in many ways. One of the most universally respected individuals in the City of Indianapolis, the State of Indiana. A graduate of Indiana University, a Big Ten wrestler, and deeply loved in Bloomington, he was incredibly involved in the development of the IUPUI campus for many years, served as the founding president of the Metro Athletic Association for IUPUI. He was one of those unusual individuals who not only had a vision and an appreciation and an affection for what he was all about, but he was a worker. He helped IUPUI in a variety of ways. He served as deputy mayor of Indianapolis, as vice president of the Lilly Endowment, and he was a long-time member of the staff of Senator Dick Lugar. There is no more appropriate way to honor all that he contributed in his memory then to dedicate the IU track stadium in his honor. He was an exceptional person. Dear friend. 
Unanimously approved on motion duly made and seconded."
The man for whom the stadium was renamed was "vice president for community affairs at the Lilly Endowment in Indianapolis, a former Deputy Mayor who was once a special assistant to Senator Richard Lugar and to Dan Quayle when he served in the Senate" and the stadium was renamed in his memory because he was killed in a plane crash on September 11, 1992. Also riding on the plane were Frank McKinney (an Olympic medalist in swimming), John Weliever (former director of Indiana's lottery and of the state's Department of Administration), and Bob Welch (White River State Park Commission executive director), all who "played key roles in Indiana's efforts to establish itself as a sports capital."
Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Ted Boehm says Carroll played a critical role in staging the Pan Am games, which Boehm chaired.

“There was a tremendous amount of work that needed to be done to just liaison with all the different government entities that needed to be involved in the Pan Am Games,” Boehm says. “He was the perfect guy to facilitate that kind of complicated arrangement.”
"A memorial to all four men sits in White River State Park near the historic pumphouse" and an annual award "is given in memory of former deputy mayor and civic leader Mike Carroll and honors a man or woman who has demonstrated Mike's qualities of determination, humility, and devotion to the central Indiana community." Former winners of the award include Tom Binford (former Indianapolis 500 Chief Steward and co-founder of the Indianapolis Urban League), Gene Glick (noted Indiana developer and philanthropist), Yvonne Shaheen, Ted Boehm, Katie Betley, Bob Bowen, and most recently, Jeff Smulyan (founder and CEO of Emmis Communications).

From that first track event in July 1982 and its first Indiana High School Soccer State Championship game in October of that year to the nearly 70 Indy Eleven games the past four seasons, Carroll Stadium has seen some very significant sporting events throughout the years. "The facility has hosted the track and field events of the 1987 Pan American Games, 2001 World Police and Fire Games, several USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and NCAA Championships, as well as the 1988 US Olympic Trials where Florence Griffith-Joyner set the women's 100 metres world record of 10.49 that stands to this day." Carroll Stadium has even hosted a U.S. Open Cup final in 1997 between the Dallas Burn and D.C. United, as 9,766 fans watched the Burn win in penalties. On the field that day were players like Jason Kreis and Marco Etcheverry. Michael Carroll and his contemporaries envisioned an "amateur sports capital of the world" and the Indy Eleven, while professional, have attempted to continue that goal by bringing world-class athletes to Indianapolis. Kleberson and Torrado, Nicht and Busch. Zayed and Falvey. Ring, Smart, & Mares. These are just a handful of the guys who have brought the world's game to Indianapolis and Carroll Stadium.

Track and Field Construction, 1982
Since the initial construction in 1982, the stadium has undergone various modifications, including a project in 1986 & 1987 to "replace the running surface of the track and refurbish the inside track area for soccer," some emergency handrail repairs in 1999, and some maintenance work on the lighting in 2013. One of the largest and most recent projects included the replacement of the field in 2011, which was done to "remove the existing natural grass soccer surface, soil/sand sub-base, and irrigation systems. A larger synthetic turf surface and base system with new irrigation systems will be installed." Just think about the fact that the Eleven could have been using a grass field just a couple seasons before they started playing at Carroll instead of the Field Turf installed there now. Imagine watching Kleberson on a natural turf field. All of these projects do not include the money that the Eleven have invested in the stadium to get it to a level that would accommodate 10,000 fans on a routine basis, like the fresh coat of paint, the signage, and the suites and party decks that were constructed on the north side of the stadium that were not part of the original design.

2012 IUPUI Master Plan
What happens now that the Indy Eleven are not going to be using Carroll Stadium this year, and maybe not in the future as well? In the 2012 IUPUI Campus Master Plan, the topic of Carroll Stadium includes an entire paragraph and nothing more. Yet, that paragraph does not bode well for Carroll Stadium.
"South of W. New York Street 
To create visual connectivity to the riverfront park, it is recommended that the Michael A. Carroll Stadium grand stands be removed. The track will remain and be improved as part of the active recreational portion of the park."
When I posed the question to the University Architect's Office about whether the pre-Indy Eleven plan for Carroll Stadium would revert back now that they won't be using it, I was told that it remains to be seen. Demolishing a grand stand requires money and the demolition is not on the forefront of any conversations about upcoming or future projects. I believe that if the Eleven do not return to Carroll Stadium, the IUPUI men's and women's soccer teams would be the only routine occupant of the stadium, and their attendance draw does not require a grand stand the size of the main stand. Though I can see the new suites being a nice addition for IUPUI soccer fans.

Lucas Oil Stadium cross-section
For all its quirks and lack of amenities, I enjoyed Carroll Stadium and am going to miss watching games there. Carroll Stadium can't compare with all of the bells and whistles that Lucas Oil Stadium can provide. You know, like functioning bathrooms and concession stands and merchant stands and locker rooms for the players... The greatest aspect for a fan who sees all of those things as superfluous distractions from the main attraction of the game (though I do appreciate having locker rooms for the players) is that the game will be much closer at Lucas Oil Stadium than at Carroll Stadium due to the elimination of a 9-lane track. From the highest point of the lower bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium, the center of the field is approximately 194-feet away. That same distance at Carroll Stadium encompasses just the field level seats, which, admittedly, do not have the same vertical height as those at Lucas Oil Stadium. For the rest of the fans in the grand stand at Carroll Stadium, everybody is going to be much closer to the action.

Google Earth screen capture

The Indy Eleven may have temporarily kept Carroll Stadium from demolition and may one day find itself playing there again. With the changes affecting the team in 2018, the stadium is the one that seems the least clear about what the future holds. If the team never makes its way back to Carroll Stadium, I think it's served the team as well as can be expected of a stadium built in the early 80s and ideally designed with track and field events in mind.

It may not be much, but it was the starter home for the BYB and like a lot of people's starter homes will always hold a place in our hearts.

Thanks for the memories Carroll Stadium.


Nipun Chopra said...

Fantastic work here, Drew. Great writeup.

Drew said...

Thanks Nipun!

Jeff C. said...

Very nice write-up. I suppose I'll always have just a hint of fondness for Carroll Stadium as the inaugural home of Indy Eleven. But, my goodness, the place was a dump, and not in a good way (as a Mets fan who grew up watching games at Shea Stadium, I'm familiar with the attitude, "yes, it's a dump, but it's *our* dump"; I never felt that way about Carroll). I never liked the smoke, I never liked the uncomfortable seating, I never liked the lack of amenities, I never liked the way sound from the main stand dissipated into the sky, I need liked the distance of the seats from the field, I never liked the fear that a passing thunderstorm would require the evacuation of the stadium. LOS is far from a perfect replacement, but I'm ready to move on.