Lucas Oil Stadium and Indy Eleven logo

Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN

Indy Eleven vs. Memphis 901 FC
USL Championship

When the Oakland Raiders depart the Oakland–Alameda County RingCentral Coliseum for shiny new digs in Las Vegas next year (before inevitably returning to Oakland with no-one in Las Vegas seeming to notice), it will finally close the chapter on the multi-sports stadium in the United States.

Lucas Oil Stadium exterior
Didn't your father ever tell you not to leave the windows wide open when you went out?

Of course, I'm just talking about the very circular cookie-cutter stadiums that were built in the 1960s that offered sightlines far too bad for American football, and were far too big for baseball. I mean, they had the right idea, they were just impossible to execute well with such wildly varying sports. The Aussies apparently have it right by only playing sports with a circular playing field.

The concept of sharing is caring isn't totally dead though. Whilst the influx of 'soccer specific' stadiums in the United States has allowed most Major League Soccer teams to no longer have to share with an infinitely more popular football team, some teams are either popular enough to stay with their hosts (Atlanta and Seattle), or just haven't got around to building their own stadium despite having over twenty years to do so (New England).

View from the East Club at Lucas Oil Stadium
An excited crowd anxiously check their phones to see if they can stream something more entertaining.

But we're not even talking about Major League Soccer for this example, we're talking about the United Soccer League. The USL Championship. The second level of the American soccer pyramid (which isn't really like a pyramid at all, more like a porch attached to a really big house and the door is locked).

When Indy Eleven found the IU Michael A Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium was too small for their needs (that sole need showing MLS that they're worthy to join the party at some point), they turned their attention to a more modern stadium. It's a much better stadium, but a stadium way too big for their needs. This is the Indianapolis Colts's Lucas Oil Stadium.

A look at the South Goal section at Lucas Oil Stadium
All of the ball must break the plane for a goal to stand.

Now, Lucas Oil Stadium is an incredible stadium, and probably my favourite stadium that I have been to thus far (because nobody will take me to any other NFL stadiums). Like most stadiums outside of the UK, it has a unique look. The retractable roof keeps noise in when the Colts are any good, and the stadium has all the modern facilities people crave (only Tottenham Hotspur Stadium can really come close as an equivalent in the UK) that could allow someone to quite conceivably spend all day in the concourse. The only problem is it's far too big for a second division team.

I've been in empty stadiums before (I watch Reading, for Christ's sake), but even though the residents of Indianapolis actually seem to embrace our football (they have pubs devoted to it and their Brickyard Battalion supporters group—who would sadly probably embarrass the average Brit because we're no fun and a right bunch of miserable bastards—really get the sport and team), there's still not enough of them to make match days seem less of a ghost town. So with that in mind, here's what the experience watching a second tier American soccer team in a cavernous stadium not built for them was like.

Memphis 901 FC taking a free kick at Lucas Oil Stadium
Memphis attempting a field goal from the 30 yard line.

The usual over the top festivities (usually consisting of random people drumming on buckets under the bridge outside the stadium) were eerily absent and unless you got right up close to the stadium, you'd have been forgiven for not knowing there was a game on. Even so, I enjoyed my experience at the old stadium and was keen to see what a game at Lucas Oil Stadium was like.

Of course, a common feature at showing just how unpopular an event is are scalpers. Part of the furniture at most major sporting events, even more so in the United States, you're constantly being greeted by someone holding an alleged clump of tickets spread out like a geisha's fan. And despite the fact that I once saw some overly ambitious scalpers trying to flog tickets to a definitely not sold out WNBA game, I was kind of surprised to see they'd packed that ambition in and stayed at home.

Brickyard Battalion celebrates a goal at Lucas Oil Stadium
A giant party popper goes off as a goal is scored.

So imagine my surprise when someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I wanted tickets. Being the social butterfly that I am, I obviously greeted him with a vacant expression, similar to that of Homer Simpson being asked any question related to nuclear power. Once it was established that this man was with his own children and wasn't going to snatch my wallet (good luck trying to use my card in the US, pal), I felt safe to take the four tickets (only needed two, but whatever) thrust into my hands.

A closer look at these tickets showed that the standard price is $45. Sure, they were club seats at midfield but even so, $45 for a second tier American soccer game? Drop the prices some more and maybe more people will show up? Might be worth an idea.

Indy Eleven souvenir cup
One of the most important parts of the American sports scene, the souvenir cup.

Armed with free tickets and a sense of suspicion that I was going to somehow be removed from the premises for having fakes, I joined the slow moving human centipede that is the security line. Once you've proven yourself to be an upstanding citizen, or in my case a confusing foreigner, you're released into the building where someone will thrust a programme into your hands for free. Free I tell ya!

The ticket fairy's goodwill meant a walk all the way to the other side of the stadium to find the right section. Not to worry, I could use the exercise. Did he give me tickets that are in a section not clearly signposted so much time was wasted walking back and forth between said section? Yes, yes he did.

View of the field at Lucas Oil Stadium from behind the Brickyard Battalion
Good luck ever getting used to where the touchline actually is.

And during the back and forth stroll past the automatic doors that you're meant to go in but that would have been too obvious, the kind man was spotted with a concierge being escorted to a box. That explains why he was willing to give up $180 worth of tickets to the first person he saw. I just thought I was special.

Hello East Club Lounge. Who knew people who paid more for their tickets would get an exclusive area to eat and watch every other sport but the one they've shown up to see? The soft seats will make up for any 0-0, and because Americans haven't liked the sport long enough to irrationally hate everything about it like we have, you can enjoy an incredibly expensive pint at your seat.

The North Gate entrance at Lucas Oil Stadium
I challenge you to find this much concourse space at any English football stadium.

Watching Indy Eleven at Lucas Oil Stadium can be a challenge. Throw away your Nintendo DS games because, thanks to new turf installed in 2018, they are forced to play with the NFL markings on the field and it can become quite the brain teaser. The yellow soccer markings are so faint you'd be forgiven for thinking they were applied with a highlighter.

Your eyes never quite adjust to where the real touchline is, and the referee who once allowed Reading a throw in from the edge of a shadow would be advised from forging a career in the USL. There's also the peculiarity of the goals being housed in the completely white painted turf at the back of each endzone, which makes me hope they'll never have a controversial ball crossing the goal line incident because it would be impossible to figure out.

Lucas Oil Stadium exterior and Peyton Manning statue at night
Statue commemorating the greatest TV commercial actor of all time.

Still, it was an entertaining experience, made even better by not having to spend any money. The fans create a decent atmosphere and get behind their team just like any English fan does, in spite of how spaced out everyone is. It's an introvert's dream.

Maybe once the new stadium gets built, the team will continue to grow the fan-base enough to attract the attention (wallets) of MLS. If Sacramento can get a team, then this city also deserves a team. They actually love the sport here, because they've never had to watch Reading.

Useless information about Lucas Oil Stadium

Address: 500 South Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46225
Capacity: 67,000
Pitch Type: Artificial
Ticket Price: $45 (or free if you're standing in the right place at the right time)
Program(me): Free, 28 pages

Indy Eleven ticket from the 2019 season

Indy Eleven 2019 program