Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Eleven Park AKA Titanic Park - Part 2

Just under a month ago, I described the Eleven Park as Titanic Park because it felt like me writing the article about the situation was me as the band continuing to play music on the deck of the Titanic as it slowly sank into the ocean. Continuing to perform as the [Indy Eleven] world crumbles around us. Here I go, playing some more music...

Immediately before I made that statement in that article, I described what I could see happening with the stadium situations. To recap:

  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.
Today, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission met to discuss the Professional Sports Development Area #2 proposed by Mayor Hogsett that has been going through the process of usurping the PSDA #1 that incorporates Eleven Park. To the surprise of nobody following this situation, the Commissions voted 6 to 1 in favor of the PSDA #2. 

PSDA2 kills PSDA1.

Step 1 complete. 

Mayor Hogsett gets to continue to talk about bringing MLS to Indy with a still unnamed billionaire owner group.

Step 2 still in play.

What Indy Eleven, Ersal, and Keystone do about Step 3 is still to be determined. 

Compounding the rough week for Indy and Eleven Park, the City of Indianapolis announced "final plans for archeological work at Greenlawn and Henry Street Bridge construction." It wasn't so much the plan that grabbed my attention in the press release, it was the verbal jabs thrown at Keystone and Indy Eleven that was shocking to me. Below is an excerpt from the press release, with emphasis by me.
The city has entered into a contract with Stantec, an engineering services company, to provide a proactive archaeological approach to the site. 

“As we’ve continued to meet with members of the community, we realized that we were falling short of their expectations. By adding Stantec to the team, we believe we are now more closely aligned with the desires of our residents,” said Indy DPW Director Brandon Herget. “Stantec’s previous work on the Bethel Cemetery project has been referred to as the “gold standard” by community members I’ve spoken with, and provides this project with excavation process led by archaeologists, not a contractor-led project with archaeologist oversight.” 
"The new bridge and roadway project, known as the Henry Street Bridge, will be constructed through the old 'Bury Ground' and 'New Bury Ground' sections of the Greenlawn Cemetery, parts of which hold the largest African American burial ground in Indianapolis or Marion County. Although this project will only disturb less than 1.5 acres of the 20-plus acre site, the city estimates that 650 or more graves could be unearthed during the construction of this project. Based on the number of human remains unearthed at the Greenlawn Cemetery site over the last six months, this is a fair assessment of the challenges that lay ahead. The city’s plan of having an archaeology team methodically search for and recover forgotten graves at the site before the construction crews begin work is the best way to ensure all those left behind when the cemetery was abandoned more than a century ago are relocated to a place where they can respectfully rest in peace,” said historian and Community Advisory Group member Leon Bates. “The price tag of the city’s approach to Greenlawn Cemetery is not cheap, but then, is there a price limit for doing the right thing?” 

In a separate press release regarding the final plans for the Henry Street bridge project that runs adjacent to the Eleven Park site (again, emphasis mine):
“Earlier this year, a consortium of community stakeholders, including the city, approached Lilly Endowment to seek funding that would enable the city to preserve the enhanced, architecturally significant plan for the bridge without sacrificing thorough archaeology of the site,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “We are grateful for Lilly Endowment’s support, which is specifically and exclusively for the enhanced design of the Henry Street Bridge.”  

I mean, I continue to wonder what Ersal did to the Mayor, because Mayor Hogsett continues to make life more and more difficult for Ersal and Indy Eleven.

Today's confirmation from the Commission on PSDA #2 now clarifies some of what the club is going to need to do moving forward.

Ersal and the rest of the Owner's group need to figure out a new way to fund their stadium, while also waiting to see if the Mayor's MLS bid ultimately kills the team. That's a difficult situation to be, but I'm sure that Ersal's team is considering the scenarios for either situation. As I stated in my previous article, at this point, Ersal/Owner's group/Keystone/Indy Eleven are going to have to privately fund their stadium if (when) the MLS bid isn't accepted. At that point, they will also probably need to operate it themselves too instead of it being part of the Capital Improvements Board portfolio like Lucas Oil Stadium, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Victory Field, and the Convention Center.

Building on the Greenlawn site is looking further and further like an option for Keystone without substantial effort and delay. The Eleven Park social accounts keep reiterating, "We are ready to build." I can almost guarantee that isn't the case. I assume at this point that the design team wasn't complete by the time the demolition finished, partially because they were waiting on City construction permits to determine if there was anything that needed to be adjusted from those permit reviews. The Mayor's office has stated in the public meetings that the permits have never been issued, so the design team, and by extension the design itself, is in some form of limbo. Likely, the design team has been put on hold. How far the design has progressed is an unknown to me, but I seriously doubt that it is anywhere close to being "ready to build" unless you're talking about the loosest version of that phrase. I mean, I'm "ready to retire," but the ~15-20 years that I have until I reach that stage is still a long way from happening. 

While the Mayor has been less than ideal in this situation and people associated with the adjacent Henry Street bridge project aren't against throwing jabs, I don't believe Keystone/Indy Eleven are telling the truth either.

Here I sit continuing to play the music, but the iceberg has seemingly succeeded in sealing the fate of Eleven Park. 

Details of the public meeting that was held for the archeology of the Henry Street bridge project can be found here (

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