Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Indy Eleven Stadium Location Options: A Summary

Recently, Indy Eleven announced that they will make an announcement on the location of Eleven Park by the end of March. Since my first article in 2014, I have discussed potential stadium locations numerous times on this site, on Twitter, and in Reddit. As we wait for the official announcement from the team, I thought it would be good for me to create a summary of many of the locations that I've reviewed over the years. I don't have any inside insight from the team, these are just locations that I feel have the most potential and seem to meet the team's stated goals of location or are large enough to fit a stadium (note, not all of the locations have enough space to include the development portion). In no particular order, here are the locations and some of the discussion I have had about them through the years (follow the links for more of my detailed thoughts in the historical articles).


  • Sand Street - This location is the old Valspar lot and is currently owned by the Indiana Finance Authority. There is so much to like about this location. It's big enough for the stadium, close proximity to downtown, and creates a "stadium zone" in the southwest portion of downtown. The location isn't big enough, however, to include all of the extra components of the Eleven Park development like the apartments and hotel so the team would likely need to utilize the language created in Senate Enrolled Act 7 in IC-36-7-31 Sec. 4.(a) that states (emphasis mine):
    "The tax area may include a facility described in this subsection and any parcel of land on which the facility is located. An area may contain noncontiguous tracts of land within the county. However, the straight line distance between any point in the tax area and the facility described in subdivision (1) may not exceed one (1) mile. The area must be separate from other professional sports development areas established under IC 36-7-31." 
    There are significant advantages to this site with language in the Act that helps to overcome the disadvantages.
  • GM Stamping Plant - Of all of the locations I've evaluated, this site just begs to be utilized. It's gone through so many iterations in recent years with developers who agree with that assessment, but something seems to happen that keeps changing it's ownership. Currently, the property is designated to be used by Elanco, for their world headquarters. Unless the team has created a partnership with Elanco, the site seems off the board since the Elanco renderings of the site utilize the entirety of the roughly 100 acres (shown in the above link). That being said, the linked article states (emphasis mine):
    With the purchase now executed, the state, city and Elanco will work together to advance a vision of walkable, mixed-use space that expands the boundaries of downtown Indianapolis across the White River and brings renewed vibrancy to the area for years to come. The site will be anchored by Elanco’s 45-acre global headquarters, which may expand up to 65 acres if the company exercises a restricted land option, and 10 acres of outdoor space along the site’s eastern-most border that will facilitate an expansion of White River State Park and improvements to the river and its western banks. 
    The city of Indianapolis will help increase accessibility to the site through construction of a new, two-way bridge across the river at the current location of Henry Street. In addition, the city and state will partner on the development of a new pedestrian bridge connecting both banks of the White River. The remaining property along the south and southwest sides of the former GM stamping plant site will be available for future mixed-use development that prioritizes connectivity, livability and a seamless integration with the adjacent neighborhoods.
    If that doesn't read like the Indy Eleven's "transformational neighborhood development" tagline, I don't know what does. So, it seriously wouldn't surprised me if this ended up being the site for the team. That the City is going to provide a walkable connection to the rest of downtown will only help with the connectivity. 
  • Lafayette Square Mall - This location consistently comes up as a potential site for the Eleven Park, for much the same reasons that the GM Stamping Plant does. Acres of space and a desire to transform it from its current struggling form. Just like the GM Stamping Plant, the Lafayette Square Mall recently underwent a recent change of ownership as it was sold from the Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp to Indianapolis-based Perez Realty Group. In the IBJ's article about the change, Gabriela Perez, who is "the local property manager for Weston Property Management Company  - a Perez affiliate company that now operates the mall" stated that "discussions about the vision for the property are ongoing, with plans to share those details 'at the right moment'." That's developer and realtor speak, but that is also something that Indy Eleven has been saying a lot lately. Could Indy Eleven have worked a deal with Perez Realty Group for something at the mall site? At this point, I'm not going to rule it out, other than it doesn't fit into the team's long-standing statement that their preferred location is downtown Indianapolis. 
  • Indianapolis International Airport - This was a site that I evaluated last February when I found out that the Indianapolis International Airport Authority owned significant acreage north of the airport that they bought due to noise abatement needs. I went into a lot of details in that article, but I don't see it as realistic so I won't go into any more detail here. Though you can read more at the link to find out why it might not be so ridiculous.
  • 16th Street and Fall Creek Parkway - Another site that I have evaluated over the years, including as far back as my first attempt at evaluating locations in 2014. It's currently a city-owned park, so acquiring the property might be easier if the team was able to reincorporate some kind of park-like aspects to the development. There isn't much space for the rest of the development though, so the team would need to enact the Senate Enrolled Act 7 language mentioned above. 

  • Twin Aire - An old drive-in movie theater that is now the property of the City of Indianapolis, I evaluated this site a couple years ago after it was mentioned in an IBJ article. It has some promise, though is a bit outside of "downtown." It is located near the site where "the new Marion County Community Justice Campus will be built on the site of the former Citizens Energy coke plant on the east side." I'm not sure if that helps or not, but I think it fits into the "transformational development" criteria.
  • Broad Ripple High School - The former high school has been mentioned multiple times over the years because Ozdemir attached himself to the site at some point. I have many concerns about it (outside of downtown, traffic/parking concerns, not the largest site, etc.)

  • IUPUI/Carroll Stadium - Another site that we're all familiar with and that I first evaluated back in 2014, again in 2015, and then again recently, which are the images to the left and below; one with the stadium roughly located in the same spot as Carroll Stadium in a North-South orientation, as well as across the street near Beauty Avenue. Another site that has plenty of potential, but also substantial issues. Nothing that probably can't be overcome, but I'm not convinced this is a location that Indy Eleven wants to deal with long-term. No real basis for that, just a feeling I've had over the years about the difference between Eleven's desires and IUPUI's desires.
In a different article in 2015 about Indy Eleven stadium options, I discussed the possibility that the team should consider how to incorporate a mixed-used building into the design, particularly if it was located on the IUPUI campus. A grocery store built into the development would be a great connector between downtown, IUPUI, and Haughville, which is located just west of Carroll. Now the team has incorporated mixed-used buildings into the facility. I was ahead of my time...
  • Diamond Chain - Located near Lucas Oil Stadium, this site started gaining interest last February when the owners decided to relocate the facility. Like a few of the options, it has the issue of not being quite big enough for the entire development, but it's close to fitting the stadium. One of the main issues is that they indicated it would take two years to complete the process of closing the facility and it came into play after Greg Stremlaw indicated they had narrowed the site down to three locations.
  • White River State Park - This is another site that I evaluated in 2019, but I have so many concerns about it, that I'm including it here only for completeness, but I really don't believe it is a legitimate option.

  • Victory Field - Back in 2015, I evaluated the team using Victory Field for their games and has absolute no chance of being the site that the Eleven have selected, but I'm including it here because it was when I first called it Eleven Park during a stadium discussion. Another example of me being ahead of my time... 
  • National Starch - This is another site that I evaluated in 2014, but really have no basis for it. It has changed possession since then, but I still don't see it as a legitimate possibility.
  • Kuntz Stadium - Also one of the original locations I evaluated in 2014 for the obvious reasons of its connections to the history of professional soccer in Indiana. I ruled it out then because of the relatively small size of the site, as well as the parking constraints, but it would certainly help with the "transformational development" side of Indy Eleven's goals. I still don't believe it is the selected site, but weirder things have happened.
Now that I've run through all of the sites that I've previously discussed, and despite the fact that I don't think two of the three following sites are the selected location, I'm including them here for completeness because I really don't know where the team has selected. At this point, no place would surprise me. I also recently became keenly aware that there are numerous other locations scattered throughout downtown (and Marion County which is where Senate Enrolled Act 7 requires the development be located) that require some additional work/acquisition efforts that Indy Eleven might be willing to pursue. I've only evaluated what could be considered the low hanging fruit.

Sherman Park
Located on the near east side, at the intersection of Michigan Street and Sherman Drive are approximately 50+ acres that are currently owned by the City of Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development. While there are plans online for the location (see here, here, here, and here for information), it seems like updates on the plans for that development have stalled. Whether that means that the plans have fallen through, or changed, or the websites just aren't being updated, I don't know. Yet, the last update I could find (the fourth link above) was at the end of November that reads:
"Create greater local capacity to lead economic growth and development in urban neighborhoods in order to put into productive use underutilized space including brownfields."
That's vague enough to not be overtly consistent with anything from the team, but general enough that it could fit. 

This location is northeast of the Twin Aire site so it doesn't quite qualify as downtown, but maybe we can call it "downtown-ish." As one source indicated to me about the desired stadium location, "it's downtown until it isn't." Regardless, it's yet another property that is large enough to fit the stadium needs with extra space for some of the development and parking. It's also conveniently located near interstate access and public transportation stops, which is an added advantage. If it wasn't for the fact that I have already seen other development renderings for this site, the location definitely feels like one that could have come to the forefront for Indy Eleven. 

Brookville Industrial Park
While doing some other evaluations, I ran across the following site that is approximately 90 acres and owned by a group called Brookville Industrial Park LLC. I recently drove by the site and while downtown is visible from the area, it's clearly not "downtown." Located on the east side of Indy on Brookville Road, approximately 1.5 miles from Shadeland Avenue and 2 miles from I-465, it has easy access to the interstate. IndyGo public transportation is in the area as well. 

This site falls under the "maybe" category, mostly because of the team's statement about being "downtown." Years of struggling to find the site, financial assistance from the State that has a deadline, and a likely financially straining year under a pandemic may have forced Indy Eleven to expand their evaluations, but I'm not sure they have expanded away from downtown this much. Yet I'm keeping it under consideration because it does check a bunch of boxes as a potential location, particularly if Ozdemir and the rest of the ownership group has decided that downtown just can't work.

As I evaluated the Brookville site, and expanded my view to check it's distance from Shadeland and I-465, I noticed that there is an even larger asphalt patch to the northeast of the Brookville site.

Ford Facility 
Turns out that large patch of asphalt is nearly 150 acres that is currently owned by the Ford Motor Company. When I drove by this site, it's just acres and acres of asphalt and a temporary building that I suspect houses the guy in charge of keeping track of the site. This site dwarfs the Brookville Industrial Park and the GM Stamping Plant and those sites look massive. To provide a "transformational neighborhood development" in this location seems absolutely daunting. There is nothing there around it except a couple other factories. It would be the Indy Eleven creating a neighborhood, not transforming it.

Again, I'm not sure it's likely, but it is close to public transportation, close to interstate access, and way more than enough site to build the stadium and as much development as the team and Keystone Group could want to attempt to do. You can just see it in the below image, but there is a walking trail just to the north of the site called Pennsy Trail. This trail extends all the way into the heart of the Irvington neighborhood, which could provide for another connection beyond cars or buses. 

I don't know the status of whether the Ford Motor Company is looking to sell the property, but I think I remember seeing realty signs as I drove by it. The site definitely doesn't fit the "downtown" moniker, but like my evaluation of the Brookville site, things may have forced the team to expand their options.

Indy Eleven have indicated that they will announce the location by the end of March. At which point, my 7 years of site speculation will come to an end and I can shift towards the amenities that supporters might want and value in a stadium dedicated to predominantly housing Indy Eleven (and eventually, hopefully a women's side and an academy side?). 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Goin' back to Carroll

We're goin' back to Carroll. 



We're goin' back to Carroll.

The Indy Eleven made an announcement today that their 2021 home games (and possibly up to the point where the proposed stadium is constructed) will take place at their original home on IUPUI's campus; Michael A. Carroll Stadium.

That's a simple tweet, with quite a bit of ramifications. Enough ramifications that the team felt the need to roll out a Carroll Stadium FAQ page later in the day. The key component to me is: 

... after continued discussions with Lucas Oil Stadium, it became clear that there were not enough potential available dates to host a season at the venue, especially pivotal weekend dates that result in a schedule most conducive to success both on and off the field. 
It's important to note that this is a change from everything that the team had mentioned to me in the past. That they were going to be at Lucas Oil Stadium "for the foreseeable future." I guess a pandemic will readjust many things, including what I perceive as a step back in stadium. 

From what I saw of the Twitter responses, the move was well received by the majority of the fans. As was indicated in my twitter exchange with Andrew Retz, he pointed out that, "honestly perhaps the only people most excited about going back to Carroll are the ones in the supporters section." To which I fully agree. 

The fans who don't sit in the supporter's section are likely not all happy with this move. The BYB appreciated the atmosphere of "The Mike" because they were standing in permanent temporary stands, but could set off smoke, their chants seemed louder because they weren't lost to the cavernous corners of Lucas Oil Stadium, and frankly didn't care about the stadium amenities anyway. 

The rest of the stadium attendees, however, get to go back to metal bleachers instead of seats, porta-potties for their trips to the bathroom, concessions out of cargo containers (I don't foresee this changing despite their FAQ stating "our focus will be on improving our gameday experience for all fans"), and the evening crushing opportunities to go home early when inclement weather forces everybody to evacuate the stadium because there isn't a weather safe concourse (many people can't hang around during extended rain delays). It doesn't get any better for the players who will now go back to having their locker room in the Natatorium across the street and a storage room for the halftime resting space. 

Back in 2018, before the team made the move to Lucas Oil Stadium, I wrote a fan tribute to Carroll Stadium for what it provided this team in its infancy. Like many fans, I have a soft spot for Carroll Stadium and what it means to many of the key moments in the club's history. I ended the article, by saying (new emphasis not in original article): 
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.
I didn't expect then that just three years later they would be back in the stadium full-time. In that article, I also called many of the items above "as superfluous distractions from the main attraction of the game," but I still feel like this move to Carroll Stadium is a step backward for the club.

Yes, I know, the move also allows the team (see previously linked FAQ):
... not only greater control of our scheduling, but also gameday atmosphere, in-stadium promotions, partnership activations, promotional signage, and more items that make Eleven matches a unique experience in Indy’s sports and entertainment scene.
Recently on Soccer Saturday, Greg Rakestraw and Brad Hauter were talking about the move to Lucas Oil Stadium and remarked how at every single game, there were players from vising clubs who would step onto the field for the first time with their cell phones, recording the experience. I imagine the visiting coach breaking out his best Norman Dale impression and reassuring his team that despite the envelope, the field is basically the same (though with football lines). 

Lucas Oil Stadium garners that reaction. 

Carroll Stadium does not.

I have also seen the responses from some former players stating that they like this move. I hope everybody else is right, but I said it earlier today in the exchange with Andrew Retz and I'll reiterate it here. The excitement for this moves seems to be from people remembering "the good old days" and forgetting that the stadium is "old," but not necessarily "good" and that Lucas Oil Stadium is likely the only reason that there were fans at the games this past year. Lucas Oil Stadium provides so much "social distancing" opportunities that they were 1 of only 7 USL teams to allow fans into the games in some form and earlier in the season than most teams. I honestly don't think that happens with Carroll Stadium, for much the same reasons as the other 28 teams in the USL had for not having fans in attendance (likely in outdoor venues).

I don't know the team financials. They wouldn't tell me even if I asked. I don't know what it costs to be in Lucas Oil Stadium. I don't know what it used to cost and will cost in Carroll Stadium. What I do know is that the average person in Indianapolis could see a move from Lucas Oil Stadium to Carroll Stadium as a sign of a struggling second division soccer. Which, if we're being frank, would it surprise anybody if they were? I'm sure they have one of the highest budgets in the league and a pandemic-affected year of reduced ticket and merchandise sales isn't going to help the bottom line. 

Moving back to Carroll Stadium affects the fan experience, even if it may somewhat improve the supporter's experience. Getting casual fans to return to porta-potties and rain-delayed exits from the stadium is going to be a tougher sale now. I suspect that the team hopes to temper some of those concerns with the announcement of the site for Eleven Park in the coming week, but even with that announcement, it's still likely 3 years away from playing a game there. 

I hope I'm wrong and this goes well for everybody. I hope the team remembers how to operate under the challenges of cargo containers and temporary stands so that a repeat of opening night 2014 isn't repeated. I hope the new stadium eventually solves all of the issues. I hope Jon Busch tells Jordan Farr to get some Indy Eleven baseball hats...

But goin' back to Carroll Carroll Carroll is not the home run decision for me that it was for the majority of the responses I saw on Twitter. 

Guess we'll see in about 3 months.

Monday, February 1, 2021

2021 Eleven roster thoughts

The Indy Eleven roster is something that moves around. Sometimes there are big changes. Sometimes the roster moves are for positional depth, but with very little movement in the game day roster. The initial roster under Martin Rennie in 2018 had 26 players (22 new to Indy + 3 returning (Braun, Ring, Steinberger) + Mares signed late in the year). 2019 had 30 players (7 returning + 23 new signings). Last year's roster had a total of 31 players throughout the course of the season (17 returning + 14 new signings (7 that were on Academy contracts + Mitch Guitar who was signed late in the year and never played)). So when the team re-signed the first of the players from last year's squad in November, it was obvious that it was not the end of the roster creation for the 2021, but just the start. 

However, the flux that this roster has seen this season has been unprecedented and has bounced around more than a 6 year old on a trampoline after eating birthday cake, particularly this month. The roster currently sits at 14 players, but here's a quick reminder of how it got to this point:

  • 11/25 - Farr, Ayoze, Hackshaw, Haworth, Pasher, Penn re-sign (6 players)
  • 11/30 - Newton, Moon, Guitar re-sign (9 players)
  • 12/4 - Jennings signed (10 players)
  • 12/7 - Newton short-term loan to NYCFC (9 players, then back to 10 players)
  • 12/11 - Timmer signed (11 players)
  • 1/5 - Ouimette re-signed (12 players)
  • 1/6 - Buckmaster signed (13 players)
  • 1/11 - Arteaga signed (14 players)
  • 1/14 - Pasher to Houston (13 players)
  • 1/29 - Koffie signed (14 players)
  • 1/29 - Newton to Vancouver (13 players)
  • 1/30 - Law signed (14 players)

Photo: Don Thompson (@DLTPhotog)

As we can see, the roster has seen a lot of change in the past three weeks. There are going to be more additions; many before the season begins and, if history tells us anything, likely more as the season progresses. I normally don't like to get too in depth with the roster announcements until I see how they are being utilized by the manager, but there are a couple player re-signings that initially caught my attention and recent roster transactions have further intrigued me so I'm going to mostly focus on those.

News broke on Friday about Evan Newton getting another chance in MLS with the Vancouver Whitecaps. An announcement that a former player had told me was likely coming. So when the announcement was officially made, I reached out to Jon Busch to get some insight into the signing, what it means for Indy, and what it specifically means for Jordan Farr. Both players train with Jon during the season and off-season at Sogility, so he's in a prime position to give his opinion on the two guys and what Evan's signing with the Whitecaps means for everybody involved.

During a previous conversation with Jon, he had informed me that he thought Newton had a clause in his contract that kicked in for another season with Indy if he reached a certain amount of playing time in the 2020 season. Since Evan played all but one game, the clause was activated and so it wasn't a surprise to me that he was one of the first players announced as returning. However, with his loan spell to NYCFC and now the transfer to Vancouver, I asked Jon if he thought Newton had been actively looking for other teams. Jon indicated, "Evan was under contract for this coming season for Indy Eleven so he wasn't actively looking for other teams. He was happy here. Yet, saying that, ever since he left San Jose Earthquakes many years ago to drop down into the USL to get games, his goal was to eventually get back to MLS. I have known Evan for many years, and over those years, we have had many chats about it." It sounds like, at least from Jon's perspective, Evan is just getting the chance that comes with working hard and having successful goalkeeping seasons, year after year, and having somebody notice the effort. It's nice to see him get another chance at MLS. 

I went on to ask Jon about Newton's potential in Vancouver, given that there are already 3 other goalkeepers on the roster before his arrival. Jon stated, "I am very excited for him to get his chance again. From what I know about it, he has a multi-year contract, which I would expect them to give him being a senior pro with a family. He is going into a very competitive situation. They have a Canadian international at the No. 1 in Maxime and two young homegrown goalkeepers. So I envision him being the second goalkeeper; there to push Maxime and play when Maxime is away for international camps. He is also there to help develop the younger two goalkeepers. As long as he takes care of his business during training and stays healthy, then I see him getting the opportunity in games when Maxime is away."

Photo: Don Thompson (@DLTPhotog)
When both Newton and Farr were re-signed, I had concerns for the trajectory of Farr's career, particularly if he was going to be sitting as the No. 2 keeper behind Newton again for the majority of the 2021 season. I saw nothing in the 2020 season to make me think that Rennie re-signed the two guys, but with swapped No. 1 & No. 2 roles. When they were announced, I wondered whether Farr shouldn't try to be loaned somewhere so that he could get regular minutes. Just as Newton did at San Jose behind Busch, he eventually had to find another place to play to be able to get regular games. Farr needs the same thing. Newton's departure, at least at this point, puts Farr into the No. 1 spot. I asked Jon about what Newton leaving means for Farr, if it makes him the default No. 1, and if his past performances have been enough to secure the spot for him.

As can be expected, nobody knows, but Jon stated that, "I am really hoping that Martin and his staff give him the opportunity to prove his worth. From what I have seen of him, he can be a very good USL goalkeeper. He just needs the opportunity to play week in and week out. From the games he has played in his few years here, he has shown well. The ultimate question is how does Martin and staff see him? Do they see him as the future No. 1 and are willing to bring in a younger goalkeeper to push him and be his backup, or do they go and get another senior pro like Evan as the No 1. Time will tell on that answer."

Jon sees a lot of similarities in his and Evan's situation in San Jose as in Newton and Jordan's situation. "For me, Jordan is in the same spot that Evan was many years ago when he was with me in San Jose. Jordan is at that point of his career that he needs to play games to develop. In my opinion, this is Jordan's opportunity to prove his case as a No. 1 in this league. I am very happy for both these guys and am excited to watch the next chapter of their careers."

Like Jon, I'm happy for both guys. Like Jon, I hope that this is Farr's chance to step up and get regular minutes in the No. 1 position. He has shown promise, but needs the game in and game out responsibility to move his career forward. 

Again, I don't normally like to get too in depth on a roster until I see how it is being utilized, but Farr could have his work cut out for him in the early part of the season. For various reasons, there are now only 8 players returning from last year's squad, and there's no guarantee that two more won't be departing the team if Penn and Guitar work out deals with the MLS teams that drafted them. That leaves just two of the defenders he saw in front of him the past couple of years (Hackshaw and Ouimette), two midfielders (Ayoze, who is 35 years old and Haworth, who missed quite a bit last year with injury), and Moon. That's not a lot of returning minutes in front of a young goalkeeper while he works on his confidence in a starter role. Assuming Farr does become the No. 1 goalkeeper for the Eleven, the team's success will depend on what the new signings and the future signings do in front of him and how everyone comes together.

With a stadium announcement within a couple months and a roster that has recently had a hard time growing, but has seen multiple players receive MLS interest, the team is at an interesting crossroads. Whether that team is anchored by a fan favorite in Farr, remains to be seen.