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Indianapolis offers to buy Eleven Park soccer stadium site

City offers to buy Eleven Park from Keystone Group

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In the continuing discussion of dueling soccer stadium proposals, an Indianapolis deputy mayor on Wednesday wrote to the owner of the Indy Eleven teams and offered to buy the Eleven Park site.

The letter and a statement from the city government were shared with News 8. The city government offered to purchase the portion of the site not already under its control “at fair market value,” the deputy mayor’s letter said.

Work began May 31 on the Eleven Park with a groundbreaking attended by Mayor Joe Hogsett and Gov. Eric Holcomb and other dignitaries. However, after a few months of construction work, human remains were found on the site, and that appears to be what’s behind the city’s offer to buy the construction site.

The Eleven Park project, estimated at $1.5 billion, was being built on land previously owned by The Diamond Chain Co. along the east shore of the White River between West Washington Street and Kentucky Avenue. Plans call for a stadium with 20,000 seats, plus offices, apartments, a hotel, retail space, and a parking garage.

Nearly a year after construction began, on April 25, the mayor made a surprise announcement that the city government was pursuing a Major League Soccer team and a second site for a large-scale soccer stadium on property near Gainbridge Fieldhouse. That project has advanced in recent days in front of city government leaders, but state officials must give the final approval, as they did for Eleven Park.

The city has said an ownership group is in place for the stadium near Gainbridge Fieldhouse, but no details have been revealed.

A men’s team and a women’s team called Indy Eleven are in the United Soccer League, and they host matches at the IUPUI stadium. Indy Eleven founder and owner Ersal Ozdemir also is the founder and owner of development firm Keystone Group. On April 29, Ozdemir told News 8 that he was surprised as were many others by the mayor’s MLS announcement.

Ozdemir said April 29, “As you know, Keystone is one of the largest private real estate developers in the state. We’ve done a lot of projects in the city. We successfully put over $300 million in the last few years in downtown. We have worked with administration successfully, and I have a good relationship with the administration and the mayor, but I didn’t expect the announcement when it came, but again the mayor is a friend, I’m happy to get in a room today to figure out a way to get Eleven Park built.”

Wednesday’s statement from Aliya Wishner, the communications and policy director for Hogsett’s office, began, “Today, the City of Indianapolis made an offer to purchase the former Diamond Chain site from Keystone Group with the intent to further inclusive community conversations about the site’s appropriate development.”

“The offer comes in light of concerns raised by the community after more than a year of research has uncovered the truly historic nature of these hallowed grounds and remains still located on the site. We believe this offer to purchase the site presents a win for our community, and for Keystone Group,” the statement added.

The letter from Chief Deputy Mayor Daniel J. Parker to Ozdemir notes that the city government has learned the site contains the remains of as many as 650 people from the former Greenlawn Cemetery.

Parker wrote in Wednesday’s letter, “As we have learned more about the site, the City has sought to take an active role in an effort to right the wrongs committed more than a century ago when the resting place of Indianapolis’ first residents were erased from the map and paved over. Knowing what we know now, any proposed future development ought to follow a painstaking and inclusive community conversation on the different perspectives about how to respect the history of the site and the individuals still laid to rest there.”

It was revealed in December that the northern portion of the Eleven Park site contained human remains, but numbers had not been previously shared. Some advocates had estimated the oldest part of the cemetery might still contain the remains of 2,000 African American people. The cemetery’s history dates back to the 17th century.

Leon Bates, an Indianapolis historian who is doctorate candidate, told News 8 in December that the area was where early Indiana settlers and U.S. Civil War Union soldiers were buried.

Keystone Group, in a news release Wednesday, said 87 burials have been found across 6 acres. The remains were be reinterred and memorialized at Mount Jackson Cemetery in Wayne Township.

Jennifer Pavlik, chief of staff and senior vice president of Keystone Group, said in the news release, “As we move forward with this transformational riverfront development it has always been our steadfast commitment to correct past mishandlings by previous ownership, with dignified and respectful reinterment and memorialization.”


For weeks, Keystone and Indy Eleven have requested to sit down with Mayor Hogsett’s negotiation team, and the response has always been the same: rather than discuss facts and negotiate in good faith, city officials would rather spread misinformation through press releases and play games with your tax dollars.

“For more than fifty years, Indianapolis has achieved great success because it benefited from leadership that saw value in bringing the business and civic community together around bold ideas and big projects. Unfortunately, this current administration’s embrace of divisive politics and bare-knuckle intimidation with the City-County Council that have no place in our city.

“We intend to correct the record as it relates to our ongoing efforts to work with the community to offer peaceful reinternment for those buried in a site that for over a century has been disregarded and disrespected. Rather than respond to Mr. Parker’s last-ditch effort to salvage the bungled rollout of a half-baked idea, it is our hope Mayor Hogsett will once again retake the reins of his own administration and join us in a thoughtful, adult discussion on the future of soccer and downtown development in our state’s capital city.

Jennifer Pavlik, chief of staff and senior vice president, Keystone Group

A map of the planned Eleven Park location in downtown Indianapolis. (Provided Image/Indy Eleven and Keystone Group)