I say that with a slight amount of boasting after the debut game of Indy’s new soccer side. It was my debut as a professional soccer announcer, yet not the first time I’ve been behind the microphone for a soccer match. I’ve had the pleasure over the last few years to call the IHSAA state championship matches, plus I’ve done various college soccer games over the years, primarily for IUPUI.
I know a little bit about soccer.
I say this for a second time to give an accurate description of my knowledge of the technical aspects of the sport. I can drop the lingo, and play-by-play skills tend to translate from sport to sport. Say things like pitch, set piece, corner, flag is up, etc., and you can at least sound like you belong in the conversation.
I start today’s blog, and my first of many about Indy Eleven, with that admission (and a bit of bragging) to set up the fact I can speak much more to the crowd, ambiance, relevance, and place in the Indy sports landscape of this new team than I can how they played the beautiful game.
I can speak to the fact that the Eleven certainly wasn’t overmatched in their franchise opener. Scoring chances were tilted in favor of the home team, and ball possession was slightly in favor of the home side as well. And to give some credentials for the opposition in Carolina on Saturday, they finished second in the NASL a season ago, and defeated two MLS teams in the US Open Cup last season.
But what struck me about Saturday night was simply the night itself. Fans were tailgating hours before the contest. The gates opened at 6p, and ticketholders found plenty to do before finding their seats for the first time. By the time the game kicked off around 7:45p there wasn’t an empty seat in the house, with over 11,000 in attendance.
The upgrades at Carroll Stadium at IUPUI are both staggering and stunning. The east and west end seats make a spacious venue suddenly seem intimate. The constant heartbeat to the match provided by the Brickyard Battalion in the west stands provides a true home field advantage. The suites on the north end add the upscale experience that fans love to have, especially of the corporate variety, with the amazing combination of being just a few feet away from the action.
It’s always a great start when you sell out your first game. Another good sign would be the line of people that couldn’t get in who elected to watch the game from atop the parking garage across the street. Yes, the Eleven already have their own version of the Wrigley Rooftops. Perhaps I should trademark the ‘Carroll Condos’ phrase right now.
Now the task is to go do it again. You can never have another first, but there’s certainly a goal to have multiple sellouts. With a season ticket base of well over 7,000, that’s one heck of a start. The Eleven are back at home against Tampa Bay on Saturday night before then heading out on the road for the next two weeks.
This new enterprise had the stage mostly to itself on Saturday night. That could change as early as this weekend, depending on when the Pacers’ playoff opener will be scheduled. There’ll be competition on the local scene with future Pacers games, month of May goings on at the Speedway, then college football games to compete with in the fall.
But in a good sign, two different teams drew two outstanding crowds within blocks of each other on Saturday night. While Indy Eleven filled the house at Carroll Stadium, the city’s first professional franchise, the Indians, drew just shy of 9,000 fans in their home win.
The newness will wear off, and while getting a point in the home opener was nice, getting three (more soccer parlance for getting the win and not a draw) in front of the home fans will be a necessity.
But the win for this team was off of the pitch on Saturday night. The point earned on the field was simply a bonus.