(INDIANAPOLIS) – There’s good news for the Indy Eleven and bad news for the Hilton hotel chain as legislators revise a downtown development bill.
Indy’s minor-league soccer team has been lobbying for years for state financing help for a stadium of its own. The United Soccer League team now plays its home games at the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium. The Senate approved funding if Indy gets a Major League Soccer team. The House Ways and Means Committee has has dropped that requirement.
Ways and Means Co-Chairman Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says MLS wants to see a stadium at least under construction before granting an expansion team. And he says the structure of pro soccer is different, with minor league teams enjoying a stronger fan base than other pro sports. He says there’s growing enthusiasm for both the sport and the Eleven. And he notes even if the bill passes, the bipartisan State Budget Committee would still have to sign off on financing.
The proposal would create a “sports development area” around a new stadium, with taxes collected within its boundaries earmarked to pay off construction debt. It’s the same mechanism used to build Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The bill extends the lifespan of that mechanism downtown to pay for improvements to the fieldhouse, in exchange for the Pacers extending their lease another 25 years.
But Huston’s committee dropped a provision which would add two new Hilton hotels downtown to that funding mix, to help the city pay for a $120 million expansion of the Convention Center. The convention center wants to add a giant new ballroom, and the new Hiltons would connect to the convention center, with dibs on the ballroom as hotel meeting space if a convention hasn’t booked it. Rival hotels are fighting the move, arguing the 1,400 additional hotel rooms are more than the downtown market can handle. Huston says the city has other funding options.
The full House will vote on the revised bill this week or next, leaving about two weeks for the House and Senate to agree on a final version.
(Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images)