INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis is up against a lot in its quest to make its soccer team, Indy Eleven, part of the United States' premier soccer league.
The city has to get past a $150 million expansion fee, the costs associated with building a new stadium (likely in the $100 million range), and 11 other cities before it can be a part of Major League Soccer.
$150 Million Fee
The $150 million fee is a record-high for MLS expansions. Indy Eleven has a group of five investors to help pay for the costs associated with the MLS bid.
Those five people are:
- Ersal Ozdemir - Founder & CEO, Keystone Realty Group; owner of Indy Eleven
- Mickey Maurer - Chairman of the Board, National Bank of Indianapolis and IBJ Corp
- Jeff Laborsky - President & CEO of Heritage
- Mark Elwood - CEO of Elwood Staffing
- Andy Mohr - Founder & Owner of Mohr Auto Group
Indy Eleven said the list of local investors is expected to grow.
The battle for a new stadium for Indy Eleven has been going on for years. Two years ago, the team tried to get a $82-million open-air stadium approved through Indiana lawmakers. The plan to pay for it was through taxes on tickets, concessions and apparel.
The Indiana Senate instead approved a bill that would've authorized $20 million in renovations for the stadium the team currently plays, Michael A. Carroll Stadium at IUPUI. But the two proposals were too far apart for lawmakers to come to a compromise in time.
The following 11 cities also submitted bids to take the four spots available for MLS:
- St. Louis
- San Antonio
- Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg
- San Diego
The MLS has previously stated that revenue and, by association, population is important for potential cities. Of the list of possible cities, Indianapolis is the fourth-most populous, behind Phoenix, San Antonio and San Diego.
The cities in close proximity to Indianapolis -- Nashville, Detroit, St. Louis and Cincinnati -- seem to be the biggest challenges for Indianapolis. It is unlikely that MLS will choose more than one midwestern city in close proximity for the expansion, and Indianapolis is smack dab in the middle of all of those.
The president of the team from Cincinnati said the city is the "most proven city" of those trying to become part of MLS. He said his team, in the United Soccer League (USL), averaged more fans than five MLS teams last year. But the city has not revealed any details for a new stadium.
Nashville is the only city on the list that doesn't currently field a soccer team to move to MLS. The Nashville SC will begin play in 2018 in the USL.
The MLS, according to Fox Sports, has been trying to get a team in St. Louis since the league was founded in the 1990s. However, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a ballot measure would go to voters on April 4 that would put $60 million in city money toward a new stadium.
In Detroit, Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores, the owners of two other professional sports teams, also proposed to bring the MLS to the city. They plan to release information on the site in the future, but they certainly have the money to bring the league to Detroit.
Overall, Indianapolis is not in the front running to be selected for the league in this latest round of expansions. Joe Prince-Wright, an expert soccer columnist for NBCSports.com, writes in a recent article that St. Louis, Sacramento, Cincinnati and San Diego are considered the favorites to win entry into the league.
Indy Eleven may have submitted its proposal in time for consideration to be a part of the MLS, but it still faces an uphill climb to actually make it into the league.