Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Eleven Park AKA Titanic Park

 Let me start with some prefaces.

  1. I did not attend the City-County Council meeting on Tuesday May 28th, 2024. Nearly everything I gleaned from that meeting was obtained via X, and specifically, Kurt Darling of WIBC. I will reference his name throughout, but not all the links. Go to his X page and you'll find them all there. Thanks Kurt!
  2. My first article about an Indy Eleven stadium happened in December 2014 where I discussed the site near the Heliport. Does that make me an expert? No. Does it mean that I have spent a long time thinking about an Indy Eleven stadium? Yes. The location is not something new, even though it might feel that way right now.
  3. I don't know anything more than what most people know. The people that wouldn't talk to me before still won't talk to me. The people that I used to think would give me an honest opinion, I don't think will do that anymore. Certainly not on-record. Is that going to stop me from giving my thoughts now? Hell no.
Let's move onto the basics from tonight's meeting. The CCC approved the proposal to create a second Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA2) by a vote of 6 yea, 4 nay, 1 abstain. Per Mr. Darling:

Annee: No
Bain: Yes
Boots: Yes
Brown: Yes
Dilk: No
Lewis: No
Mowery: No
Neilsen: Yes
Perkins: Yes
Robinson: Abstain
Osili: Yes

Mr. Darling conveyed this little nugget that I will discuss more later: 
Councilor Evans asks Deputy Mayor Parker what's next if the MLS proposal is defeated.
"If PSDA2 is defeated, we will not be building a soccer stadium. Period," he said.

Many eggs versus two big eggs:
City attorney Scott Chinn explains that the new proposal has "more eggs in one basket" as opposed to only "two big eggs" with Eleven Park.  

He says the new proposal is a lot more diverse as a tax district and keeps city liability to fill in the "gap" at a minimum.

And finally:
Deputy Mayor Dan Parker says the city backed out of the Eleven Park proposal because it "presented too much risk to city taxpayers." He says the new MLS proposal has "much less risk."

He added the "gap" in fiscal liability the city would take on with Eleven Park was "too big."

Now let's move to my thoughts.

I absolutely agree with Deputy Mayor Parker that "we" (the City of Indianapolis) will not be building a soccer stadium. The passing of the proposal in all reality kills the Eleven Park stadium at the PSDA1 site. With the deadline for the financial portion of the PSDA law fast approaching, the City and the Mayor will now move forward at full speed trying to get the PSDA2 area finalized and Keystone/Ersal don't have enough time to come up with a PSDA3 site. What I suspect happens is that 1) the Mayor's Office somehow manages to get part of the way there but don't succeed in jumping through all the legal hoops, thereby killing the PSDA2 stadium, or 2) they do manage to make it through the hoops and MLS says, "nay, that's okay, thanks for playing our game though," thereby killing the PSDA2 stadium. Since the Mayor already killed PSDA1, Indy doesn't build a soccer stadium. Deputy Mayor Parker tells the truth. The MLS proposal has "much less risk" on "City taxpayers" because nothing gets built. No real risk when there isn't anything built.

As I discussed in my last article about the resolution, the Mayor's Office's plan definitely spreads around the PSDA2 throughout the 1-mile radius allowed by the law. That's the "many eggs" versus Keystone/Ersal's Eleven Park development "big eggs." Looking at all the locations that the Mayor's office included in the PSDA2, I question whether even the combined effort of all those locations would be enough to "fill in the gap" if the stadium doesn't make the money expected. However, I've read through earlier financial proposals for the stadiums, and nearly all of them are more optimistic about revenue than I would think prudent and that hasn't changed from the time the PSDA1 was discussed. It isn't like the Mayor didn't see those projections months/years ago. Moving the "other revenue" sources to dozens of sites from just the one Eleven Park site doesn't change the financials that much based on what I saw. 

If there were any grown-ups in the room, here's how I can see this thing moving forward that actually benefits everybody. 

Oh wait. One other thing that was mentioned in the meeting and that continues to be a sticking point for me is that the Mayor's Office has yet to publicly state who is included in this mysterious MLS investor's group. If you're using public funds for the stadium portion, contingent upon the success of those investor's ability to get into MLS, I think the public should have access to those persons, even if the soccer team to MLS is a private to private exchange. 

Okay, back to what I was saying. Grown-ups in the room. Nearly all of this is stuff that I have been saying for weeks, none of it publicly until I could get more information. Since that seems like that is going to be impossible to obtain, I'm just going to say it now out loud as my unsolicited thoughts.

The main points are as follows:

  1. PSDA1 and PSDA2 should merge. 
  2. The City should pay the cost to inter however many remains are found.
  3. MLS to Indy Eleven
  4. Punch your weight.

1. The concept of spreading around the tax base in the PSDA is a good idea. Having a stadium and a core development around it is also a good idea. I'm not sure that the original concept of the PSDA and the law was written around included using existing businesses, but rather was written more with the intent of providing new businesses and "transformational developments" to grow the City. However, best I can tell, it doesn't preclude the use of the existing businesses either. If the Mayor's Office didn't think that the rest of the Eleven Park development was going to be enough in a stadium shortfall, why not maintain that development and just add to it? The Mayor's idea isn't necessarily a poor one, just a poorly executed one at the moment. The stadium with the Eleven Park developments PLUS the other businesses should provide enough financial backstop. Why does it have to be either/or? Nearly everything associated with the stadium/MLS right now is hearsay, rumors, or lies. If nobody else has to say their sources, then my comments aren't any different, but I heard that the Mayor can't get his PSDA2 site. So he's on the verge of having a PSDA without a stadium site, which means no stadium, which means no MLS, which, ultimately, means this all has occurred for nothing, Unless you believe the conspiracy theorists out there that MLS is actively trying to kill off the "marquee" names in USL, in which case everything else in this article doesn't matter if that's true and Garber wins. Back to the point of this bullet item though, a combined PSDA1 + PSDA2 makes conjunction with below item #2. 

2. The very first time that the City allowed a development to occur on the Greenlawn Cemetery site without first having moved every single remain from it, the City made a mistake. The City then compounded that mistake over and over again. While some of those remains were likely considered "property" at that time, that's a mistake we can fix now. A mistake that no single developer (however hastily they purchased the property without fully vetting the site) should have to bear alone. The mistakes were our ancestors' and the bill has come due. Without properly interring the remains, the site will remain undevelopable and if that's the case, we might as well let Keystone sell the land back to the City, throw down some sod or seed, and put a sign by the road renaming the land Greenlawn Cemetery. Whether there is 1 remain, 650 remains, or the 15,000 remains that was mentioned in the meeting, the site is still a cemetery until the remains have been removed. That's on all of us. 

3. If MLS comes to Indianapolis, they should come to Indy Eleven. I, personally, don't care if that's with Ersal Ozdemir or some unknown investors with Ersal as a minority owner because he sells his team's name to the MLS owners for their use. There is no MLS talk in 2024 without Indy Eleven. That's a fact and one that shouldn't be overlooked by anybody on the MLS side of things. 

4. It's also okay to just punch your weight. John Cusack in High Fidelity provided me with that line that I'm going to adjust here for my use. "The thing I learned from the whole [MLS] debacle was that you have to punch your own weight. You see, [MLS], she's out of my class. ... Too much. I mean, what am I? I'm a middleweight. Hey, I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but I'm certainly not the dumbest." Naptown, that's us. It's okay to be a middleweight. It's okay to be the best damn middleweight that you can be. That could mean the team stops thinking about MLS and just tries to be the best damn USL Championship (or USL Premier if the often discussed pro/rel version of USL ever happens) they can be. In the words of Stephen Stills, "And if you can't be with the one you love, honey love the one you're with." Utilize the new billionaire owner Chuck Surack to help privately fund a 15k seat stadium that can be expanded if that need arrives, sooner or later. Punch your weight.

Since I'm not seeing any grown-ups, here's what I think could (or does) actually happen:

  1. PSDA2 kills PSDA1.
  2. MLS kills PSDA2.
  3. Indy Eleven still without a stadium (more than a dozen years into its founding while new USL Championship side Rhode Island FC is already in the process of building a stadium) seeks other options that don't include a PSDA with an Indianapolis politician.
    1. See above discussion about punching your weight.
    2. Ersal/Keystone convince Mayor of Westfield that a stadium located in/around Grand Park makes for a good idea and synergy, hoping a different politician will be better.
      Narrator: "It won't."
  4. As best I can tell, while Indy Eleven can technically use Carroll Stadium for its women's USL Super League team (reminder, that's a Division 1 level league, on par with NWSL), the lack of their own stadium kills the women's professional team because fans don't want to sit at Carroll Stadium in the winter and the players don't want to play on the turf in the winter. Players like Katie Soderstrom, who came back to Indy from a pro career in Europe, I think partially intrigued by the idea of being part of Indy Eleven's inaugural Super League team, watch that dream remain just a dream.
I've said it before on this site. This club isn't perfect. It's owner(s) isn't perfect. 

Right now, though, me writing this article is starting to feel like I'm part of the band playing on the Titanic. Titanic Park.


Don Thompson said...

Leave it to politicians to screw things up. “I’d rather my kids be…”

Rachel said...

I wouldn't be at all surprised if this whole thing was intended to let the city back out of building a stadium while blaming it on Indy Eleven instead of admitting they just don't want to build a stadium right now. At this point I think building a less ambitious stadium privately is the best option.