A stadium for Indiana … and the NASL?

If all goes well, Indy Eleven will play in a soccer stadium with a unique canopy that somewhere between the Bird’s Nest in Beijing and, appropriately for a town known for auto racing, a tire with a fancy tread.

It’ll cost $82 million and will be paid off by a tax on tickets for the stadium. “If you don’t go, you don’t pay,” says the stadium site.

The FAQ at that site answers a few good questions, but a couple haven’t been addressed.

First, what happens if stadium ticket taxes DON’T cover the $82 million cost? The text of the bill doesn’t answer — in fact, if you read the bill, you don’t really get the impression that a stadium is being built at all. It’s all about the tax mechanism.

Second, what happens if the NASL really manages to expand to 24 or more teams and implements promotion/relegation? The site commits Indy Eleven to the NASL for now, while not explicitly ruling out an MLS move at some point. For all the talk of possibly going first division, either in MLS or in a post-apocalyptic world in which the NASL reigns supreme, suppose the team ends up in a third division?

Perhaps that’s an academic point. Maybe Indy Eleven, as one of the better-funded and best-run (as long as they have Peter Wilt) NASL clubs, will never be relegated. Or maybe the people making sure this stadium will be financially guaranteed should call the NASL leadership into town and make them state, bluster aside, what they really intend to do with their league.

You can’t help rooting for Indy Eleven. Indianapolis is a great sports city, home to the NCAA, USA Track and Field, and Andrew Luck. Wilt is one of the most beloved soccer executives in the business. The stadium looks fantastic.

And it’s a good time to ask the NASL what’s really going on. Will it spend itself silly trying to compete with MLS, or is that just a fans’ fantasy? Will it simply be a strong, well-rooted second division as the A-League so nearly was before declining in the 2000s?

Might be a good time to answer those questions once and for all. They’re going to be asked in a few other cities as well, particularly in cities where clubs may ask for actual public money rather than a ticket tax.

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