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Indianapolis pursues Major League Soccer team

The future of sports in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The mayor of Indianapolis on Thursday announced the city is pursuing a Major League Soccer team.

Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, said he met Monday afternoon with the MLS Commissioner Don Garber about the proposal.

The city says an ownership group is in place, but no details will be revealed. His mentioned “a public and private commitment.”

A news release issued after the mayor’s announcement said, “A Major League Soccer club ownership group is forming – it includes a group of investors led by an experienced and well-respected sports executive, who has held leadership roles in MLS and global soccer.”

Indianapolis says it will create what’s defined in state law as a Professional Sports Development Area for a new soccer stadium. It’s address would be 355 E. Pearl St. That’s east and northeast of the Virginia Avenue Parking Garage that has elevated walkways connected to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis. It’s also near the former Marion County jail and the City-County Building.

The area will be presented to the Department of Metropolitan Development during a meeting at 1 p.m. May 1.

“Today, we enter our pursuit of the world’s game,” Hogsett, a Democrat, concluded at his announcement rom the City-County Building.

He refused to take questions after the announcement.

The MLS has 29 clubs, including ones near Indianapolis in Chicago; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville; and St. Louis. The MLS clubs are split between two conferences. San Diego Football Club will be the 30th team starting in the 2025 season.

A city official says the MLS proposal will be in addition to the Professional Sports Development Area created for Eleven Park, a 20,000-seat multipurpose stadium under construction for the United Soccer League men’s and women’s teams in Indianapolis.

Along the shore of the White River between West Washington Street and Kentucky Avenue, the Eleven Park project will create the stadium; over 600 apartments; 205,000 square feet of office space; over 197,000 square feet for retail space and restaurants; a hotel; public plazas with green space; and public parking garages.

However, some believe the Eleven Park project is in danger.

Brian Mowery, a Republican who is the minority leader for the City-County Council, issued a statement.

“The news that the Hogsett administration is attempting to walk away from a deal to develop the Indy Eleven Park is concerning and came as a shock to our caucus. The administration never communicated to us that this deal was in danger. I want to be sure that Indianapolis is seen as a city that always operates and negotiates transparently and in good faith. We hope to learn more from the administration and stakeholders as my caucus and I work with council Democrats to do what is in the best interest for Marion County as a whole.”

The mayor’s announcement came as the Indianapolis Colts prepare for Thursday night’s start of the NFL draft, the Indiana Pacers will host its first 2024 NBA playoffs game on Friday, the Indiana Fever and Caitlin Clark will have the WNBA team’s 2024 first preseason game on May 3.

This story was updated to correct the league in which the Indy Eleven teams play.

News release

“Mayor Joe Hogsett leading effort to bring Major League Soccer to Indianapolis

“Productive conversations with Major League Soccer and a potential club ownership group build momentum toward Indianapolis’ bid for a new major league team

“INDIANAPOLIS – Today, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced an effort to secure a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion club for Indianapolis. The announcement comes after a productive meeting with Commissioner Don Garber of Major League Soccer in New York City earlier this week.

“‘Early Monday morning, I flew to New York City to meet with the Commissioner of Major League Soccer. As a result of that conversation, I am today informing Indianapolis that, as Mayor, I will be leading an effort to file an MLS application and pursue an MLS club,’ said Mayor Hogsett. ‘Indianapolis has long been a marquee destination for professional and amateur sports. A significant part of this collective success stems from our history of local and state collaboration, the ability to articulate a common vision, and a corporate and community commitment to seeing the city’s teams succeed.’

“Indianapolis’ legacy of collaboration and public-private partnerships continues with Mayor Hogsett’s effort to bring a new major league team to Indianapolis. A Major League Soccer club ownership group is forming – it includes a group of investors led by an experienced and well-respected sports executive, who has held leadership roles in MLS and global soccer.

“Yesterday, in an effort to put forth the best possible application for a Major League Soccer team, Mayor Hogsett submitted to the Metropolitan Development Commission a proposal for a new Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA) that would enable an alternative stadium site for the League and a prospective ownership group to consider, located near the Downtown Transit Center. The proposal would create a mechanism for public financing, construction, and ownership of a soccer-specific stadium in Downtown Indianapolis. In the weeks ahead, Mayor Hogsett will seek the approval of that framework by the Metropolitan Development Commission and the City-County Council.

“‘I am well aware that this new venture presents no guarantee, but every great achievement in our city’s history has begun where opportunity was met with action,’ Mayor Hogsett continued. ‘Whether it be pursuing and receiving NFL and NBA franchises, or hosting NCAA Final Fours, Big Ten championships, the NBA All-Star Weekend, the US Swimming Olympic Team Trials, the biggest single-day sporting event in the world with the Indy 500, or the Super Bowl, our city knows how to navigate the business of sports. And today, we enter our pursuit of the ‘world’s game’.’”

News release from Aliya Wishner, communications and policy director, Office of Mayor Joe Hogsett

Keystone statement on Eleven Park

More than a decade ago, Indy Eleven built on a solid grassroots foundation to launch modern professional soccer in Indiana. Since then, Indy Eleven has worked diligently to secure the Indiana General Assembly’s first authorization for a soccer-specific facility in the state, engaged in a city-wide site selection process for that stadium’s home, and acquired at its own expense a key riverfront property that presents a unique opportunity to reconnect the Near Westside of Indianapolis to downtown.

The end result is Eleven Park: a transformational project that would bring more than just an MLS-eligible stadium to our state capital, but also the kind of mixed-use development and vibrant community space representing the highest and best use for this long-neglected part of our city.

Indy Eleven and private development partners have been, and remain, ready to bring this vision to reality with a fiscally-responsible, developer-guaranteed partnership that won’t require one penny in new taxes. Unfortunately, after years of good-faith negotiations, and recent bipartisan approvals from the City-County Council, Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration is preparing to walk away from the state and city leaders who entrusted him with this project and the neighborhoods who are depending on the progress Eleven Park represents.

In December, Mayor Hogsett’s administration submitted a Professional Sports Development Area map for Eleven Park and urged its approval. As a result, every single Republican and Democrat caucus member on the City-County Council voted to approve this map. In recent weeks, both Indy Eleven and City-County Council leadership have become aware that the Mayor’s Office has refused to submit this PSDA map to the State Budget Committee as called for by state law.

Even more troubling, Indy Eleven and City-County Council leadership have become aware that for some time, Mayor Hogsett’s negotiation team has been shopping the state legislation championed by Indy Eleven, working behind closed doors to offer publicly-owned real estate and public financing to the highest bidder, with assurances that neither the redevelopment of this riverfront parcel nor the continuation of the Indy Eleven as a team would be requirements for city support.

This is more than disappointing – it’s a shocking reversal of Mayor Hogsett’s public support for this project at the 2023 groundbreaking, for the dozens of local investors in this team, the thousands of Marion County jobs committed by Indiana companies who have been working on this project, and the tens of thousands of Indy Eleven fans in Indiana and across the country.

These actions by Mayor Hogsett’s administration are a concerning departure from what the Indianapolis business community stands for: integrity, trust, and the expectation that one is true to their word. A dangerous precedent is being set for how city negotiators conduct themselves.

Indy Eleven and its partners urge Mayor Hogsett to retake the reins of this city’s economic development strategy and redouble efforts to follow through on the promise he made to this community when he took the stage at last year’s groundbreaking for Eleven Park. In so doing, he can restore hope to those who have entrusted him with the fates of this city’s beloved professional soccer team, a reigning national champion women’s soccer team, more than 18,000 Indy Eleven-affiliated youth soccer players, Indy Eleven’s Professional Academy, and the future of the world’s game in Indiana

Statement from Alexandra Miller, senior director of comunications and public relations, Keystone Corp.