Monday, February 16, 2015

House Ways & Means Committee Says Yes To Shadowy Turkish Immigrant's Soccer Stadium Heist

It was a repeat of last year's charade when Ersal Ozdemir sent in to represent him a room full of high-paid influential lobbyists to ask members of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee to once again give the green light to making Indiana taxpayers fork over nearly $90 million to build a new soccer arena for his Indy Eleven minor league professional soccer team. The shadowy Turkish immigrant businessman and his bodyguards were nowhere to be seen. His team of influence peddlers shoveled some more crap for public consumption, and the committee members swallowed it with their typical shit-eating grins as they voted overwhelmingly to advance HB 1273 just like they did with last year's legislation.

Ozdemir's disinformation agents announced the construction of a new downtown hotel by the Indy Eleven owner would be a part of an expanded Professional Sports Development Area ("PSDA"), a TIF-like state taxing district that allows Marion County to syphon off tens of millions of state income and sales tax dollars, hotel taxes and local income taxes annually to pay for the Capital Improvement Board's sports palaces and convention center. The paid lobbyists for this shadowy character claim state taxpayers won't be on the hook for a dime of the costs of building the arena; rather, it will be up to the team's owner and the CIB to figure out what happens when the revenues generated from the stadium prove insufficient to pay for it.

Incredibly, the worthless members of this committee asked no questions of Indy Eleven's Peter Wilt about his disastrous Toyota Arena in Chicago's Bridgeview community, which left taxpayers up their reeling from higher taxes when the costly new arena came nowhere close to generating the revenues promised. Wilt was fired by the Chicago Fire, just one of a handful of successive jobs he's held for short periods of time during his checkered history in the professional soccer arena. The owner's representatives claim the new arena, which will hold 18,500 fans, will generate ticket sales from an average paid attendance of 16,500. It claimed average attendance last year of about 10,400. Faced with reports by this blog only that many of those tickets were comped, the team finally conceded it gave away 6% to 8% of those tickets last year. My guess is the number is even higher than that, but truth-telling isn't a virtue of the folks behind this latest stadium heist.

Under the Indy Eleven's proposal, the PSDA could capture an additional $5 million a year in state tax revenues to pay debt service on the new soccer arena. Ticket revenues from the new new arena would have to be at least $50 million to hit the $5 million figure. As an IBJ story this morning notes, a legislative fiscal analysis suggests ticket sales at the new arena would generate at most $519,000 a year. Faced with this huge shortfall, the team's owner throws in this crap about building a new hotel downtown that will augment the revenue shortfall. How generous of Mr. Ozdemir. What we want to know is how much money you've spread around the Indiana State House and the City-County Building to get our elected officials to turn their backs on us and put so much of our public dollars in the pockets of someone we know nothing about. And what little we've learned about his shady ways from his former business partner, no honest lawmaker would cast a vote in favor of any project for which he came to the State House seeking public financing. Then again, Mr. Ozdemir didn't even have to make an appearance. His paid hustlers showed up to do his dirty work for him.

UPDATE: The Star has some information on a KSM Consulting study given to lawmakers this morning the team says supports its contention the stadium will generate sufficient ticket sale revenues to pay for the stadium. The study assumes the arena will host 66 events a year, including 15 professional women soccer team games and ten concerts. The ticket prices upon which those estimates are based are laughable:

  • Indy Eleven: 16,500 at $29.50. 
  • Women's professional soccer: 8,500 at $17 
  • Concerts: 10,000 at $55
They're going to draw more fans to watch a professional women's soccer team than the WNBA's Indiana Fever? Yeah, right. Any concerts hosted at this new arena is just one less concert for one of the other venues in town like Banker's Life Fieldhouse. That's not a net gain. Also, how many people won't be buying tickets to Indianapolis Indians or Pacers games because they can't afford to buy tickets to both soccer and other professional sporting events? It just goes to show you that these consulting firms will write anything you want them to write on paper as long as you're paying them enough money to do so. 


Anonymous said...

Gary, you ask the critical hard-hitting questions all of us rationally-thinking individual would ask.

This is another excellent expose of how we have the best corrupt Democrats and the best corrupt Republicans money can buy. We also have the worst public media ever... who are little less than paid shills for the pay-to-play gangs.

How I wish you would run for public office! Yes, that is a broken record wish I see on here from time to time but... With someone of your caliber we toiling taxpayers could finally have at least one elected person (other than Ms. Scales) in whom we can believe.

MikeC said...

This will be good for Indy. Soccer is growing steadily and getting in on the ground floor here will guarantee that Indy is a player. Imagine Indy having had an NFL team in the 50s. With this stadium and continued support for the Eleven (almost guaranteed by the growing hispanic population here), Indy will make a strong bid for MLS membership.

Anonymous said...

The "assumptions" (ie numbers we just made up), include an average ticket price of $29.50. There is absolutely no way in hell Indy residents will support that price! What a scam, and shame on the committee for allowing this garbage to pass.

Josh said...

Indy is coming close to being rezoned East Chicago.

LamLawIndy said...

If it's so good for Indy, then why must it be financed by taxpayers?

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the FBI investigation of this guy? They were conducting a bunch of interviews and sniffing around for information a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

Tell Ozdemir to go ask The Turkish Government to build him a soccer stadium! We do not want to support this waste of OUR TAX MONEY!

After all, we already have bike lanes in Broad Ripple, our prime downtown parking spaces have been blocked by silly electric cars that nobody uses and we have a Cricket field that nobody uses.

Flogger said...

No amount of independent facts will sway either the Indiana Legislature, or the cheer leaders in the Mega-Media this is just one more Corporate Welfare Scheme.

The decision has been made behind closed doors hearings by our elected officials are just some stage acting. What a farce.

MikeC said...

it's not. The taxes that help finance it are collected by the franchise and the hotel. Unless you buy a ticket or rent a room there, you are not paying. This is a common form of public/private financing these days.

It's not redirecting tax revenue away from other needs. Without the Eleven, the taxes would not be collected at all.

Plus, the increase in economic activity and jobs that come with the team and its operation result in an increase in tax revenue which CAN be used on other needs.

Some people would rather not live in a city where nothing gets better, nothing is built, no one moves in, and jobs bleed away.

Anonymous said...

Two points of interest:

1. Your federal, state and local law enforcement crowed a lot prior to the big Super Bowl party in your fair city about their efforts to curtail human trafficking during the Big Event. One particular businessman had immunity to entertain your local folks with high-paid prostitutes at drug-fueled parties.

2. Your former federal prosecutor and next mayor is the beneficiary of six-figured campaign contributions being laundered through an individual with close ties to your next mayor. Your future mayor is quite aware of the source of that money.

Both points play into current events playing out at your State House. Don't count on your local FBI office or prosecutors to help in sorting it all out.

Anonymous said...


You're a fool. They won't be hitting projected revenue levels. IT'S a MINOR LEAGUE SOCCER TEAM- Not even major league. Publicly funded stadiums for private owners don't help the economy.

Anonymous said...


That is bull. There is no way you can finance this based solely on ticket revenue. You can say that is your primary source of repayment, but bondholders want to know for sure they will be repaid and will want a guarantee from the CIB on the debt. Then that opens up a huge window on who pays in. So this whole concept of "you don't have to pay for it if you don't use it" is crap!

That says nothing of the assumptions being complete crap. There is no way you are going to sell tickets at 29.50 to watch minor league soccer (and no, MLS isn't coming here, they have bigger markets to go to), let alone have people attend womens soccer or other events. Who wants to go see a concert in an athletic venue of that size when there is the lawn at white river for shows smaller than this place (and maybe equal once you configure it for shows), and then Verizon for equal or bigger shows, and also the new downtown venue at the GM stamping plant.

In the end the CIB is going to be going back to the legislature looking for a bailout again because the projections are wrong, and they were left holding the bag.

Anonymous said...

I support a minor league soccer franchise in this city even though I really don't have much interest in soccer. I truly hope Ozdemir and his team succeed on the field and as a business.

What I don't support is a decision to plow $82M of public money into a stadium for an unproven one year old minor league franchise in a second-tier sport. That is the elephant in the room folks.

And stop the nonsense about this proposal never siphoning off tax revenues from other priorities. The only arguably new tax revenue generated would come from ticket and merchandise sales taxes. Everyone knows these sales taxes won't come close to paying for this stadium. The other tax revenue sources - income, property and sales tax from a surrounding "district" or hotel or whatever would otherwise be going to the state and city. It's simply a redistribution of funds. The fact is that taxpayers in the city and throughout the state will have to pay higher taxes or suffer less in services to make up that difference.

And by second tier sport I mean soccer does not and will never hold a candle to the popularity of pro football, basketball, baseball and hockey. I know its popular with kids in the US and it's the hottest sport in most counties throughout the world. It's been that way for decades. And it ain't changing.

Anonymous said...

Keep drinking that Kool-Aid MikeC! You and your cronies better start chiming in on IBJ's website... Couldn't help but notice the overwhelming number of negative comments on both articles covering this project. Folks are finally taking exception to the hundreds of millions of tax dollars you and your pals siphon off the Indy tax rolls every year, not to mention continued worsening of city services - for those who live outside downtown anyways.

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous math. All the while preaching austerity for everything not trickling up to their millionaire buddies. Beckham could not keep that attendance up once the novelty wears off. Women's soccer selling seats- really? Concert attendance and ticket revenue sucks and has been in a downward spiral for a long time. Our hotel taxes have reached the breaking point for conventions. Can you imagine being an accountant for the CIB? They already have to come up with the $10M extortion for the Lucas Oil/Taxpayer Stadium shortage and the Pacers $10M per year ransom.

Anonymous said...

I think it's reasonable to conclude our reps will support anything as long as monies are thrown their way directly or indirectly via party Grand-Poobahs.

There have been so many recent millions upon millions in taxpayer subsidies in recent years given to businessmen that I'm inclined to believe these businessmen must have pictures of our reps in bed with dead children for our reps to support such bad ideas.

Our roads are in bad shape-yet,we have millions to give away to build needless stadiums.

We're going to be as broke as Detroit in a few years because of these bad decisions by our reps. We're going to be another Detroit if Ma & Pa Kettle/Voter keep on supporting this bunch of impudent parasites known as the worst legislature in America.

Speaking of Ma & Pa Kettle/Voter..If drug money were to enter the political world of their little ol' community....they would never know what/how such a nefarious enterprise would appear in the broad daylight. You'd have to draw for them a schematic in crayon detailing the web and a sidebar outlining the machinations and connections of said enterprise.....and even might elicit a tepid response of "nugh ugh".

Anonymous said...

I suspect Ozdemir's construction firm will be building/managing construction on this new arena for an unproven team with trumped up fan support. Perhaps he would like to build it at cost and forego any/all profits he intends to line his and his political cronies pockets with. There has been a great deal of attention given to the unrealistic projections, has anyone done any research on what the stadium would cost in an open bid situation? Just curious.....