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WTF, Indianapolis?!? – Part II

May 11, 2010

Yesterday I wrote about how the interest in hockey is alive and well in Indianapolis, well enough at least for a minor league market. In that post I discussed how Conseco Fieldhouse seems like a better venue for team due primarily to its centralized location. Location is not the only thing the Fieldhouse has going for it. Aside from being in a great spot, it also is a quality arena that could easily accommodate an ECHL or AHL franchise.

In a previous post, I sort of dismissed the Fieldhouse as a viable option because of the stadium’s layout for hockey.

Looking at this made me question if it would be a suitable venue for a top level team. That was, until I saw this.

This is the seating chart for the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. It looks eerily similar to the seating layout of Conseco Fieldhouse. In fact, the seating capacity for Charlotte is 14,100. The capacity for Conseco is 14,400. Apparently, the Fieldhouse IS a suitable location for top level minor league hockey. So if it isn’t the stadium in itself, what is the problem?

I’m going to go out on a limb and claim it’s a lease/money issue.

I am sure it is a lot cheaper to play at Pepsi Coliseum than to play at Conseco Fieldhouse. Additionally, given all the issues the Pacers have been having with their lease agreement, I am certain that it is hard to obtain a lease with the city that would not screw over the team.

In fact, the city is really to blame for the lack of hockey in downtown Indianapolis. After Market Square Arena was torn down Gary Pedigo, the owner of the CHL Ice at the time, attempted to build an 8,000-10,000 seat stadium for the club to replace the aging Pepsi Coliseum. Instead, the city voted down the idea essentially because they feared that it would take money away from Conseco Fieldhouse in the form of concerts, etc.

Another possibility is just renovating Pepsi Coliseum and while Ice brass claim that this is an ongoing process, adding new seats and a new heating/cooling system is not enough. Perhaps the arena could house an ECHL team, but I doubt the AHL would want to relocate a franchise there. The 8,200 seat stadium currently has large portions of seating blocked off, this is with good reason though as these are the sections with the worst sightlines and the uncovered seats never completely sell out. Pepsi Coliseum currently suffers from its age. The paint on the walls covering older windows fails to block out the sunlight during fall and spring hockey games and overall it looks at times like it is falling apart.

I know that a lot of fans really love Pepsi Coliseum, myself included. Yet if we want to preserve this old building and/or bring a higher level team to town, it needs a massive renovation.

Still though, the point remains that Indianapolis has a building capable of housing an AHL team. Yet, the city seems to want to keep hockey out of the arena and downtown in general. Instead the sport has been relegated to a decaying arena on the city’s northeast side. Rumors have also circulated that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has blocked other teams from coming to Indy based solely on the desire to keep the USHL team in the city and at Pepsi Coliseum. While I try to avoid speculation, this rumor has surfaced so often in my research of this topic, that it bears repeating.

Indy has a place for a top level team to play and a fan base willing to come watch them, yet no top level team. WTF, Indianapolis?!?

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