Is Indianapolis Ready for a New Professional Soccer Team?
In a word: Yes. But why? Well, in order to answer that question about the future, we have to delve into Indianapolis’ past in professional soccer.
Indianapolis used to be the host to a USL team called the Indiana Blast. Indianapolis also was the host of a W-League team named the Indiana Blaze, but due to ownership, they folded after the 2001 season after only 4 seasons of play. The Blast, on the other hand, lasted 4 more seasons, but the same ownership that had folded their sister team folded the Blast.
In the 8 seasons that the Blast played in Indianapolis, they played all their home matches at Kuntz Stadium, just off the campus of IUPUI, in downtown Indianapolis. Maximum capacity for the stadium was just over 6,000, one of the larger stadiums in the USL at the time. Unfortunately for the team, that capacity was rarely reached, the team averaging roughly half of their max capacity in most seasons.
So why the lack of fans?
Many different reasons can be blamed for their lack of success, including a lack of viable promotion, as well as a lack of talent. In their 8 seasons, the Blast only ever made the playoffs 3 times, twice (out of two seasons) in the USISL D3-Pro league, and once in the USL A-League. Outside of those 3 seasons, the Blast would regularly chalk up losing seasons, including one stretch of 16 matches in which they only won once. Managerial changes were the norm, as the team regularly had managerial resignations, and at two separate points in time, had player-coaches.
So what’s different about the new attempt at a team?
A proven ownership is the start. Peter Wilt, former owner of teams like the Chicago Fire, has taken a liking to the Indianapolis area, having moved here not too long ago. Wilt has promised to infuse the city with local talent and flair, having close relations with supporter groups like the Brickyard Battalion and the Slaughterhouse-19. Wilt has also promised to make the team a championship contender in the first year, right off the bat. He has not shied away from the local spotlight, making appearances at Brickyard Battalion gatherings and having Q&A sessions at local colleges.
Plus, the city has gathered around the team in social media settings, with groups like the Brickyard Battalion having over 1,000 “likes” on Facebook at the time of this writing, and the group “Indy Pro Soccer” having over 1,500 “likes” on Facebook at the time of this writing. The Brickyard Battalion has been selling clothing articles since their inception, and have sold out of their scarves numerous times.
The stadium as well will be bigger and better. For the first few seasons, the new Indianapolis team will be using Carroll Stadium, home of the IUPUI Jaguars. There will be a few modifications though. Bleachers added behind each goal and a set of bleachers on the street side of the stadium. An artist’s rendering, as well as a more in depth introduction to Carroll Stadium can be found at http://indyprosoccer.com/carroll-stadium-soccer-field/. The expectations for the stadium are about 7,500 seats, with modular hospitality suites added in, as well as a series of press suites.
Indianapolis is a sports city, as shown by success of teams like the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana Pacers. Yes, professional soccer has come and gone before, but with new ownership and a new vitality, the new NASL team has more than a small chance of succeeding in a big sports town. Time will only tell, but on the outset, it looks good for this team.