INDIANAPOLIS – As it has a few times at events such as this over the past 365 days, a lively chant was started around 8:15 P.M. on Thursday.
“E-L-E,” screamed members of the Brickyard battalion across bar at Chatham Tap in Downtown Indianapolis. An enthusiastic “V-E-N” soon followed after that.
Those leading the cheer were decked out in the blue and red scarfs handed out by the new NASL soccer team since the announced they’re formation as a team in the North American Soccer League a year ago on Thursday. Many among those gathered at the Mass Ave establishment for the anniversary part are among the seven-thousand season ticket holders the team has gained since they began.
This scene and those tickets were the grand hope of Peter Wilt when he initially began the process of bringing high-level soccer to Indianapolis. But for the team’s president and general manager, something more took him a bit by surprise.
“Indy Eleven has become part of the community,” said Wilt. “I think everyone in Central Indiana now identifies Indy Eleven with soccer and there is an anticipation for this team to see what it looks like on the field. We’ve made a difference-but there is so much more to do.”
After all the season is fast approaching.
The Indy Eleven will open their inaugural on April 12th against the Carolina Railhawks at Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI. Much has been done to make sure that people know about whats going on with the team, yet so much has to be taken care of before the team takes the pitch.
“It cuts both ways. In one hand I’m absolutely antsy and I want the season to start tomorrow. I want to open up that box and see what the present is,” said Wilt. “But at the same time I want every one of those 86 days that we have to prepare for the opener.”
Wilt says the efforts to get ready for that April 12th opener come on many fronts-from the team that hits the field to the place they’ll call home for the 2014 spring and fall season.
“There is a ton of logistics. We need to improve the facility. There is a lot of work to do at Carroll Stadium to bring it up to standard so our fans can have a great experience,” said Wilt. “We’ve signed 11 players, we still have ten or eleven players left to sign so there is a lot of work to do.”
Head coach Juergen Sommer will be in charge of getting a team on the field over the next few months in anticipation of the season opener. He will continue to evaluate players in the area before taking the preseason team to Arizona to begin training camp on February 1st.
While there, the Eleven will be sharing training facilities with Major League Soccer teams and will participate in a few preseason friendly games to get the team ready for their season.
“We just wanted to bring the group together, to get to know each other, to respect each other and build that camaraderie and respect,” said Sommer of the preseason camp in Arizona.
Already the fans have that with the club-as seen by the gallery at Chatham Tap to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the team’s formation. It’s been quite a journey for owner Ersal Ozdemir, who watched the chant of the Brickyard Battalion fans on Thursday night with hopes that what the team built before they started play will continue after kickoff.
“We’re Hoosiers and we want to make sure that we have a team, front office that presents the values that we do have so it’s important to have a staff that has the character and you build on the character,” said Ozdemir. “We really building this organization for years to come. Obviously we want to win on the field but also a team that the fans are proud of and that they feel that they own the team and they support the team.
“So there is still a lot to make sure that from the day you get to the stadium that we have the best experience we can.”
After a year of getting an experience-and chants-beyond what they may have hoped for.