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City commission advances proposed tax district map for MLS stadium

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May 1, 2024


The Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission on Wednesday gave preliminary approval for a new taxing district that could be used to help pay for a new professional soccer stadium on the east side of downtown.

The commission voted 7-1 to advance the map specifying the boundaries of a new professional sports development area, or PSDA, that would provide funding for a soccer-specific stadium that has been proposed by Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett as part of a city pursuit of a Major League Soccer franchise.

The approval, the first step in the legislative process, came with nearly 100 Indy Eleven supporters—the city’s second-tier professional franchise—packing a portion of the City-County Building Public Assembly Room to show their support for the team, which the city’s plan could ultimately doom.

However, there was no public comment on the matter and the vote was taken as part of a batch of other resolutions. Daniel Moriarty was the lone commissioner to vote against the PSDA.

The MDC’s vote sends the proposal to City-County Council, which will introduce the measure during its next meeting, on May 13.

“We are excited to have taken the next step toward realizing Mayor Hogsett’s vision for a Major League Soccer expansion club in Indianapolis,” the mayor’s office said in a written statement. “This is just an early step in an extensive process, and we look forward to walking alongside our city’s vibrant and diverse soccer community in developing an application that we hope will secure Indianapolis as the next Major League Soccer city.”

The proposed PSDA specifies more than 120 non-contiguous addresses throughout the downtown area that would be incorporated into a district that would collect state retail taxes, local and state income taxes, and food and beverage taxes to pay for the public portion of the stadium, the location for which has been identified as a parking lot at 355 E. Pearl St., west of the Indianapolis Downtown Heliport.

The Indiana General Assembly passed legislation in 2019 allowing for state tax contributions of up to $9.5 million per year toward debt service on a soccer stadium, as long as 20% of the overall cost is contributed by private parties, such as a developer or owner.

The taxing map includes downtown landmarks such as Circle Centre Mall, the former Anthem headquarters on Monument Circle, the City Market campus and Jail I—along with the heliport property and surrounding parking lots.

City officials say they believe a new stadium at the site could spur development on many downtown parcels included in the map, while others, like the mall and City Market, are already set to receive substantial new investment.

Other properties include the Emmis building at 40 Monument Circle; multiple properties along Indiana Avenue; the Rolls-Royce headquarters; Union Station; and several Eli Lilly and Co.-owned properties between Pennsylvania Street and Delaware Street, on either side of the CSX railroad tracks. Several properties on the north end of the central business district, including portions of the Stutz, and a handful of parcels along East Washington Street are also in the proposed map.

The City-County Council has already approved a different PSDA for a professional soccer stadium at the former Diamond Chain site on the west side of downtown, giving its final approval on Dec. 4 by a 23-1 vote.

That $1.5 billion project, known as Eleven Park, is already under construction by Indianapolis-based Keystone Group, whose owner, Ersal Ozdemir, also owns the Indy Eleven soccer team., which plays in the USL Championship league.

However, a feasibility study has not yet been completed for the site, which is required before the PSDA map is considered for approval by the State Budget Committee, which has authority on the matter under the state legislation. City officials said the administration stopped negotiations with Keystone Group after determining there was “no viable path forward” for the project in terms of funding, citing an unspecified large gap.

At the City-County Council, the measure faces a battle, as the Democratic caucus has said it “has more questions than answers” about the proposal. If the council takes up the measure, it would be heard during the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee, where it would be open to public comment.

Councilor Kristin Jones, who represents District 18, where both proposed stadium sites are located, has been vocal against the change of plans.
Following the vote Wednesday, she told reporters she is “honored to have the stated support” of her 23 council colleagues. The city legislative body currently has 24 councilors instead of 25 due to the recent departure of Democrat La Keisha Jackson to fill an Indiana Senate vacancy.

When asked who would sponsor the proposal at the May 13 meeting, Jones said she did not know of a councilor who would sponsor it.

“Typically, proposals that are in your district, the district councilor is the sponsor to that proposal,” she said. “And I am telling you, I am not sponsoring this proposal. So they will need to look for a different author.”

She said she had the “overwhelming support” of both Democratic and Republican caucuses to advocate for her district, where she said constituents have looked forward to Eleven Park for a decade.

“They want Eleven Park to be built as planned, regardless of which jerseys are worn on that field,” Jones said. “They asked for nothing more, and they expect nothing less.”

For its part, the city has said it has discussed the effort with multiple council leaders.

“The mayor’s representatives not only had discussions with council leadership, but also individual councilors, leading up to the mayor’s announcement on the opportunity for the city to pursue a Major League Soccer expansion club and the importance of creating a new PSDA map,” city spokeswoman Aliya Wishner said.

“We are still in the early stages of this extensive process and look forward to continuing our conversations with councilors on this exciting opportunity to bring the major league of the world’s game to Indianapolis,” she said in a written statement.

Under the 2019 legislation that created the PSDA’s framework, the city must secure local legislative approvals by June 30. Hogsett administration officials expect to work with a new team-ownership group to determine which site to submit to the state budget committee. The state law allows for only one PSDA for the future soccer stadium.

While city officials have said that the Diamond Chain site and the existing PSDA remain an option for an MLS stadium, sources told IBJ on the condition of anonymity that the city would prefer to decommission the heliport and redevelop that site, instead.

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