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Keystone Group and Indy Eleven Break Ground on Eleven Park

by: Jack Quigley
Over 30 years ago, Ersal Ozdemir, Chairman and Founder of Keystone Group and Indy Eleven, moved away from his home country of Turkey to pursue an engineering degree at Purdue University.

In 2002, Ozdemir started Keystone Group, a development, construction, property management, and investments company, and in 2013, Ozdemir stood on the steps of the iconic Indiana Soldiers and Sailors monument in downtown Indianapolis to reveal the name and logo of the city’s first professional soccer team, Indy Eleven.

Fast forward to the summer of 2023, Ozdemir now stands behind a podium in the southwest quadrant of downtown in front of his wife, four children, and hundreds of state and local dignitaries to break ground on Eleven Park, a transformational live-work-play district that will invigorate a long-forgotten portion of the city and act as a permanent home for the world’s game in Indiana.

“For those who don't believe that the American dream exists, this is the American dream come true,” Ozdemir said.

Investing in Quality of Life
Inspired by bustling sports villages around the country such as Wrigley Field in Chicago and The Battery in Atlanta, Eleven Park is poised to spur economic development by creating thousands of jobs for Hoosiers.

“Like a fortress on the southwest side of our downtown, this site has stood on guard and watched our city grow around it. Fostered by strong leadership, it has seen our downtown prosper and skyscrapers rise,” Ozdemir said. “Like the chain manufactured here for more than a century at this site, it has witnessed and bound the history of our city together, which has led us to today's milestone. As we move forward, it is our obligation to honor this place and its legacy in all we do.”

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Anchored by a 20,000-seat multipurpose stadium on top of the former Diamond Chain Company site, Eleven Park will include more than 600 apartments, 205,000 square feet of office space, over 197,000 square feet of retail space and restaurants, a 300 key full-service hotel, a 150 key boutique hotel, and multiple public parking garages. Eleven Park will also introduce a public plaza to the area, featuring an outdoor stage with free concerts, a kids play zone, a dog park, outdoor activities, water features, and public art.

Other highlights to the development include an indoor 4,000-seat music and entertainment venue, roof top bars, and river activation.

“This is what people are looking for,” said Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. “This is quality of life. This is quality of place. And decisions are made based on this just as much as all the other parts of the menu that you're checking like tax or regulatory environments.”

Uniquely located just one block from sights such as the Indianapolis Zoo, Victory Field, Lucas Oil Stadium, IUPUI, and the Convention Center, Eleven Park will bind existing downtown landmarks with a new live, work, and play neighborhood. The new district will also serve as a crucial connector for the riverfront – creating access to the new Elanco World Headquarters and expanded White River State Park through a new bridge and expanded trailways.

“A major goal of the White River vision is to offer more reasons for people to connect with our natural resources,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. “This groundbreaking carries forth our downtown resiliency strategy in our effort to make downtown stronger than ever before with investments in housing, recreational public spaces, vibrant economic development, and connected infrastructure.”

Eleven Park will run adjacent to an extension of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Hogsett said the park’s connection to the extended trail will not only improve access to Indianapolis’ near west side neighborhoods, but also provide more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure in the form of the Henry Street Bridge.

“When you think about those flyovers during Monday Night Football or whenever we're on television, you can pick out all those landmarks…this is what folks will see,” Holcomb said. “And they will be drawn into it just like the sport has globally.”

Inspiring Enthusiasm
Support for Indy Eleven among Hoosiers has steadily grown in the 10 years since the club’s founding. Consistently one of the top attended teams in the USL Championship with over 20,000 fans at some games – despite lacking a home stadium – Indy Eleven has fostered a dedicated soccer fan base in Indiana by creating irreplaceable gameday atmospheres.

“Soccer culture is unmatched when it comes to fandom,” said Greg Stremlaw, CEO of Indy Eleven. “From tailgating to the march of scarves into the stadium, to singing, chanting, and cheering from the moment the first whistle goes, we feel very confident that this atmosphere will resonate not just in the stadium, but will permeate out throughout the district and beyond. The passion is hard to describe in words really, so much so that a separate supporter section is being built into the new stadium that will be free standing for our home matches, as our supporters literally stand the entire game.”

Beyond the games themselves, Stremlaw said Indy Eleven matches will create a passionate event atmosphere that transcends on-field play and engages the community.

“On match days, similar to Colts games at Lucas Oil Stadium, we’ll bring about fan engagement aspects that are unique to soccer,” Stremlaw said. “This will include creative tailgating opportunities like the supporter stadium march in and will feature flags and pageantry not seen in other venues.”

Planned activities for game days and non-game days will be offered at the new public plaza, along with more community events to activate the village year-round.

Planning Ahead
Since announcing the site in June 2022, diligent work has been made on the conceptual and overall development designs with the project’s national lead designer Populous, a lead designer in state-of-the-art soccer and multipurpose stadiums.

“A world-class stadium is designed as a true destination, a reflection of its community, and a catalyst for growth in the area. This is our mission with the new stadium for Indy Eleven,” said Phil Kolbo, Principal at global design firm Populous. “The stadium will anchor Eleven Park, providing a home for Indy Eleven that creates new and tailored experiences for Indianapolis fans in a venue designed with the innovation and aspirations of a great global soccer venue.”

Keystone Group conducted a comprehensive venue and facility tour during the planning stages for Eleven Park to determine best practices for developing soccer stadiums, venues, and mixed-use districts. Stremlaw said the Keystone Group visited dozens of stadiums across the country from Orlando to Los Angeles and came away with a wealth of knowledge that translated into strategies for Eleven Park.

“We learned a great deal, including factors related to stadium seating pitfalls, grass and turf nuances, key success factors around loading zones, variations of premium hospitality, etc.,” Stremlaw said.

The city of Indianapolis has a proud history of developing large-scale projects fueled by local contractors, and Keystone Group boasts a long track record of collaboration with Indiana vendors.

“With so much construction happening across the city, we expect Eleven Park will draw interest from Indianapolis, high-quality firms across the Midwest, and around the world,” said Jennifer Pavlik, Chief of Staff for Keystone Group.

Keystone Group aims to use as many local consultants and contractors as possible balanced with national expertise for specialized stadium components. In addition, Pavlik said Keystone is striving for 27 percent XBE participation across the project.

“On the construction side alone, we anticipate this project will create over 1,000 new jobs,” Pavlik said.

AECOM Hunt will be the construction manager for the stadium, which is expected to be open to fans by the summer of 2025.

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