The team's president, Peter Wilt of Chicago Fire infamy, tells the Indianapolis Star the team can justify public financing of a new arena because it sold out every game last year, a fable only made true if you count the thousands of tickets given away for free during the season. Even with all of the free tickets given away, there were still gaping holes in the stands at many of its home games. What the team doesn't generate in fan interest Wilt assures us will be made up by the use of the arena for outdoor concerts. But what about Dave Lucas' planned amphitheater at the former GM Stamping Plant along White River? How many downtown concert venues can the Indianapolis support? More from the Star's Mark Alesia.
. . . A year ago, critics took aim at ticket-tax revenue projections of $5 million per year by team owner Ersal Ozdemir, a well-connected developer and generous contributor to politicians. The projections, critics said, were extremely high.
But Wilt noted that the facility would be used for concerts as well as soccer. He said he's "cautiously optimistic" that the team will get a stadium.
"A year ago, (skeptics) were saying, 'Let's see how they do after they play a game,' " Wilt said. "Then they said, 'How will it go after the first game?' Then 'How will it go after the spring season?' "
"I think the proof is there. Soccer's foundation is broad. It's not a fad. The roots of the sport are deep now. It's certainly ingrained in the traditional youth soccer community. But beyond that, it's now ingrained with young adults, new Americans and sports fans in general. It's no longer a niche sport. It's in the mainstream."
Wilt said the endgame is not necessarily a place in Major League Soccer, the nation's top pro soccer league. He said the Eleven could be among the NASL teams that elevate themselves to the level of the MLS . . .You won't get this kind of analysis in the sports-happy Indianapolis media, but please check out my damning post last year about Wilt's failed tenure at the Chicago Fire and the costly new arena taxpayers built in the Bridgeport community that never came close to living up to Wilt's public pitch. That arena deal left taxpayers with a big debt and higher taxes when the arena never came close to generating the revenues Wilt claimed it would generate. The supposed economic development spin-off effect surrounding the arena never materialized. Attendance never lived up to expectations either, which is very telling since Chicago has a much larger immigrant population which favors soccer over other sporting events.
According to reports it filed with the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission, Ozdemir only spent a little more than $22,000 on lobbying the legislature last year for passage of his proposed publicly-financed arena. You can rest assured that's but a fraction of what he actually paid his lobbying team. Under Indiana's worthless lobbying laws, most of the money firms spend on on lobbying isn't counted towards the amount they are required by law to report.
Incidentally, we're now approaching the two-year anniversary date of the legislature's approval of the $100 million taxpayer giveaway to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Despite the urgency and scant public debate undertaken before the legislature rammed approval of that public subsidy through the legislature, there still have been no bonds issued or money claimed by the IMS for track-related improvements. Does anyone else find that odd?