Indy Eleven’s permanent home is emerging atop an intriguing parcel of land south of Victory Field, west of the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium; the White River is its westside backdoor, and 402 Kentucky Avenue is its entry address. Facing East into the City at the elbow of West and South streets it’s the newest bright spot for Indy’s resurgent west side.
The buildout is envisioned as a village concept with office, apartments, retail, and public spaces, along with a hotel, clustered around the 20,000-seat multi-purpose stadium. Futbol—Soccer—maintains the international link to this site. The Diamond Chain Company moved to this space in 1917, vacating their first stand-alone plant site that now houses the Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium.
Parallels began to resonate. I went back to notes from the recent column about Marshall W. “Major” Taylor.
In 1892, Taylor’s skill on the bicycle earned him a dollar a day job as a trick rider for the local Hay and Willits bicycle shop, performing stunts as advertising.
This was a business coup in Indianapolis’ sudden uptick of bicycle shops. More sleuthing led to the safety chain and to the redesign of what now is the standard frame of the two-wheeler. That led me to the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis “Diamond Chain Company” entry when I had wondered: why are so many bicycle shops rising up in Indianapolis?
“On Christmas Eve, 1890, [future Indianapolis Motor Speedway pioneer] Arthur C. Newby, Edward C. Fletcher, and Glenn G. Howe invested $5,000 as the Indianapolis Chain and Stamping Company to manufacture bicycle chain. They began in a rented space on the second floor of 26 East South Street. By 1893 they moved to West Maryland Street, on the third floor of a steam laundry. They had selected the diamond as their trademark because it symbolized perfection.
“In 1899, Col Albert Pope, the man who brought bicycling to America when he began importing the HiWheel bike from England (in 1878), bought Indianapolis Chain & Stamping. His plan was to put all of the various parts of the bicycle industry he had come to own, 50 different businesses, under one roof. He also changed the name to Diamond Chain, using the catchphrase, 'nothing outlasts a diamond.'”
The company history notes: “Diamond Chain’s products were integral in many historical breakthroughs, including the Wright Brothers’ first flying machine, Henry Ford’s first automobile, and numerous motorsport champion vehicles. Today, Diamond Chain Company is the leading supplier of high-performance roller chains for global power transmission markets. We serve a diverse range of industries including oil and gas, industrial automation, agriculture equipment, aerospace, defense, and construction equipment. Mission-critical drive systems rely on Diamond chains exclusively, and the Diamond brand remains synonymous with high performance, high quality, and the highest return on investment.In today’s global environment, Diamond Chain Company still operates under the same solution-oriented, customer-focused philosophy it was founded on, while also staying at the forefront of innovative technology advances.”
The historicindianapolis.com/the-Indianapolis-chain-and-stamping-co/ blog underscores this assertion and Ryan Hamlett, in his Historic Indianapolis post on March 11, 2014, notes:
“In 1895 their first [stand alone] building at 241 West Georgia Street, employed 500, produced two-thirds of the bicycle chains used in America by 1904, and was [located] approximately where Exhibit Hall E is currently in the Indianapolis Convention Center.
Then Hamlett mentions, “In 1917 [or was it actually in 1918?], a new production facility was built upon the site of the now disused Green Lawn Cemetery. Most everybody in Green Lawn had been disinterred and relocated to cemeteries around the city, mostly to Crown Hill including 616 Confederate dead.”
That mention lured me back to the recently published Indiana Historical Society Press book, “Building Community: The Flanner and Buchanan Families of Indianapolis,” and to this soon-to-be Indy Eleven’s home site’s initial use.
“When Alexander Ralston planned the capital in 1821, he included a burial site [where] Kentucky Avenue meets South and West Streets…” cites author Julie Young, on page 18. There’s more on page 62 that links us with Hamlett’s blog, including where all the bodies went when the city decided to end its stewardship of a graveyard.
All this was looping around in my head alongside the ‘wow factor’ about a permanent home for Indy Eleven when I met Angie Sams at a neighborhood gathering, and somehow we meandered to the Diamond Chain site on the West side and….
“Diamond Chain? My dad worked there!”
Of course, I had to ask her to share more.
“I spoke to my mom about my dad working at Diamond Chain,” she emailed that evening, adding a caveat; “My mom is almost 90 years old, she is going through stage 4 liver and pancreatic cancer, her memory has faded some. She maintains a positive attitude and outlook. She shared one memory.
My dad, William E. Nagle, was born on August 27, 1930; he died on December 15, 1987. Everyone called him “Bill”. My dad had worked at Indiana Gear prior to applying at Diamond Chain. He was happy at Indiana Gear, but a friend called, encouraging him to apply for a position at Diamond Chain. My mom remembered my Dad being nervous about taking the job; he stated, "What if it doesn’t work out.”
“My mother told him, “You should go for it, you never know if you don’t try, and if it doesn’t work out you can find something else.” He accepted the job and never looked back.
“My dad started with Diamond Chain in the early ’70s. He worked there until his passing in 1987. He enjoyed his job; he managed the Data Processing Department. He felt that he was making a difference in the growth of DC, and the community it supported. He was smart, funny, compassionate, and had a brilliant work ethic. I remember the funny stories of his office and team. I remember the softball company league he and some of his friends started.
“He taught his three daughters the importance of a strong work ethic. He always told us, “Whatever you do in life…be on time, have a positive attitude and work hard; if you have these three qualities, you will always be successful.”
And then Paula Harris came by, and again I alluded to having to get on with a column about Indy Eleven moving onto the site of Diamond Chain…
“Diamond Chain! My dad worked his whole life at Diamond Chain.”
She shared the essential outline: “Paul Harris was born in 1910, in the country. In the 1930s he came to Indianapolis to find a job. After a few turndowns, he went to Diamond. He said he would give his all and work there. He moved up to Supervisor/Inspector Quality Control. During the War, my mother worked at the Naval Avionics.
“Diamond Chain wanted to start a plant in Pakistan; it was after the War. They asked my dad to be part of that. My dad thought about it and said, ’No.’ I think it was my mother who said, ‘no’. I wonder what our lives would have been like if they had said, ‘yes.’”
Paula’s sister, Pamela Harris emailed, after I reached out for her memories: “One more thing to add to Diamond Chain,” she graciously emailed back, in the midst of my interrupting her dinner with a friend.
“My dad was like middle-management, I guess. I know they had a strong union and when the union went out on strike he was not a union member but he would not cross the picket lines and so they were out for a long time on and then he was really tight or I was in high school [and nothing much more was brought up at the supper table].
When I was in grade school /junior high school, there was a plant in Pakistan that was either owned by Diamond Chain or Timing Chain, or there was some affiliation [and] they were starting a factory there, like the one here. My dad was invited to start up the plant. He did take language classes for a while to learn the local dialect and then decided that he really couldn’t leave us, so he canceled his plans to go. The family was more important.”
The Diamond Chain Center opened in Lahore, and continues, along with other overseas operations.
When I reported to nuvo.net editor Kevin McKinney that I intended to add a call-out to the column for anyone with a memory-related to Diamond Chain to share via the reply mode on the post, he emailed:
“i know that area; full of internet providers - major broadband goes through there. Good location for another stadium.”
And that proved the perfect segue to the summation by Ersal Ozdemir, Indy Eleven founder-owner, and Founder and Chairman of Keystone Group, a construction, development, management, and investments company headquartered in downtown Indianapolis that specializes and invests in complicated transformational mixed-use developments that are located in premier locations.
“We have been working diligently for the last several years to secure a large area of land downtown for Eleven Park, and with our prime location now secured we are eager to take the next steps for this groundbreaking development,” said Ozdemir. “This village will be a 365-day-a-year live, work, and play community that will transform this section of Indianapolis, providing jobs and significant economic development to downtown Indianapolis and surrounding areas.”
The Eleven Park stadium will host Indy Eleven games for both its men’s and women’s professional soccer teams. The facility will also be designed to host field sports (soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby, and field hockey) events for partners such as the NCAA and IHSAA; international matches; concerts; and various community events.
“This announcement is the culmination of years of hard work and partnership between countless individuals and entities who believed in our vision, and we are beyond excited to share the results of that effort today with our community,” said Indy Eleven President & CEO Greg Stremlaw. “While there is still more work to do, today the Indy Eleven family is thrilled to put a pin in the map and celebrate what Eleven Park will provide the country’s premier city for sports and all Hoosiers who will experience and benefit from this world-class destination.”
“We believe this site is the best place to invest knowing it will have a transformational impact to the Southside of Indianapolis, serving as a new neighborhood village within the Stadium Village Neighborhood that bridges the central business district, Victory Field, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indiana Convention Center, the White River, and the Elanco campus,” continued Ozdemir. “This location, along with the new Henry Street bridge and extension of the Cultural Trail, will serve as an important gateway to the city and bring connectivity and a pedestrian connection to the heart of downtown.”
Indy Eleven and Keystone also announced three key additional partners for the Eleven Park project; Populous, the global industry leader in soccer/multipurpose stadium design, will serve as the stadium project’s lead architecture and design firm, partnering with Indianapolis-based Browning Day Architects. In addition, D3i, a Baltimore-based international design firm with award-winning mixed-use projects that span five continents, has been hired as the master planner for the project.
While the initial design process is already underway, cites the news release, Indy Eleven will meet with fans, community members, and other constituents regarding specific design elements to make Eleven Park a special place to create a vibrant village.
Indy Eleven expects to share updated renderings of the Eleven Park stadium with the public in the coming months. They added this caveat: “Due to a myriad of factors, including the rise in construction costs, inflation, and an increase in the scale and scope of the project, Eleven Park is expected to exceed a $1 billion investment in the largest piece of property in an under-developed area of downtown Indianapolis. All facets outside the stadium project – retail, restaurants, hotel, apartments, and office space – will be developed by Keystone Group. As per the State legislation that was passed and signed into law in 2019 , the City of Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board (CIB) would own the Eleven Park stadium, while Indy Eleven would lease and operate the venue.”
The capstone email on June 24, 2022, came from Peter Wilt, the founding general manager for Indy Eleven: “Today is a milestone day for Indy Eleven and an important anniversary for me as well. 25 years ago today I was announced as the 1st GM of Chicago's new MLS team. I am honoring the day with a Billy Goat double cheeseburger at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, not far from the Fire's first office where John [Koluder] and I met and first worked together. Indy Forever!”
It was Wilt who brought Koluder, now Senior Director, Communications & Marketing, Indy Eleven-United Soccer League (USL), to Indianapolis, along with a clutch of other soccer-related specialists, many of whom have continued to live and work here.
Wilt’s love of history has enriched and enlivened Indy Eleven’s Hoosier roots. The story goes this way according to Wilt: “We were trying to come up with a name that fit Indiana so we visited the Indiana War Memorial. We talked with one of the museum collection administrators and she immediately said Indy Eleven. We loved it immediately and then we found out about Lew Wallace and decided it was a perfect fit for our team.”
Probably the most visible manifestation is Indy Eleven’s mascot Zeke, an English mastiff—a protective-yet-gentle dog, “that the 11th Regiment leader Lew Wallace bestowed as a gift to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in the 1880s. “Zeke was unveiled on April 10, 2014, when Indy Eleven and the Lew Wallace Study and Museum joined together to introduce the team’s furry friend at an event hosted on Wallace’s birthday in his hometown of Crawfordsville" cites the Wallace Museum and Study post.
“On game days, Zeke proudly dons the stylish Indy Eleven checkered home jersey, but at other events, you might see him wearing the distinctive Zouave uniform that was a hallmark of the specially-trained 11th Regiment that the club is named after.”
The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis offers a capsule history of Indy Eleven, authored by Sam Opsahl, beginning with its origins and its roots in connecting with Hoosier history: "On January 26, 2013, the North American Soccer League (NASL) announced the formation of Indianapolis’ professional soccer team known as the Indy Eleven. Named for both LEW WALLACE’S 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the CIVIL WAR and the significance of the number to the INDIANAPOLIS 500-MILE RACE (first run in 1911), the team was founded by owner Ersal Ozdemir, President and CEO of Indianapolis-based Keystone Construction and Keystone Realty Group. The team’s colors are red, white, and blue. The dominant color in the team’s logo is blue and features a checkerboard pattern to honor Indianapolis’ racing roots. In addition, the team’s crest features imagery of Lady Victory from SOLDIERS AND SAILORS MONUMENT.
"The team played its first game in the NASL on April 12, 2014, in front of over 11,000 fans. The Indy Eleven’s debut created so much attention in the Circle City that the team became the first NASL team with a waitlist for season tickets after selling more than 7,000. Their debut game ended in a 1-1 draw with the Carolina Railhawks at the IU Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium on the IUPUI campus, the franchise’s home through 2017.
Since its launch on January 16, 2013, Indy Eleven's mission [has been]: "To win championships with and for the community" - has stayed true to its aim of fielding teams that represent the state of Indiana proudly on and off the field. The 2022 season marks Indy Eleven's ninth year of play overall and fifth season in the USL Championship, a 27-team professional soccer league based across the United States. In Fall 2021, the club also announced its first foray into women's soccer by announcing an entrant into the USL W League ahead of its inaugural 2022 season.
Indy Eleven, too, has linked with Indianapolis Ballet, which began in 2006. This on-turf connection leads to yet another column. Beyond an annual half-time appearance show up for IO’s annual “The Nutcracker.”
But all this has come about because there’s been long-term support from Union Jack Restaurant and Broad Ripple Brewpub. Significantly, The Brickyard Battalion “began the grassroots efforts for pro soccer’s return to the Hoosier State before becoming Indy Eleven’s independent supporter group.”
“Grassroots support for professional soccer in Indianapolis was established August 3, 2011, with the creation of The Brickyard Battalion supporters group. Its volunteer leadership has contributed countless hours to promote soccer and helped lay the foundation for a professional soccer team in Indianapolis,” cites the post at https://www.indyeleven.com/brickyard-batallion/
“Over a thousand fans fill the BYB’s West Goal Stand at Carroll Stadium at every Indy Eleven match, creating the strongest and loudest supporters group in the United Soccer League – and one of the largest and most passionate groups in all of North American soccer at any level.
“More than a dozen active Brickyard Battalion affiliate chapters spread from Fort Wayne to the Ohio River – and now even overseas to Cologne, Germany – giving credence to Indy Eleven’s claim as Indiana’s Team in the World’s Game!
Click here: https://brickyardbattalion.com/affiliates for more information on how to best support Indy Eleven and the sport of soccer in your area.
The future home of Indy Eleven originally was home to the myaamiaki, Lënape, Bodwéwadmik, and saawanwa people, who continue to live here as the past, present, and future caretakers of this land.