Monday, January 11, 2016

Mixed Emotions: Indy Eleven Announces New Team President

Indy Eleven's New President Jeff Belskus goes from the Brickyard to the Brickyard Battalion.
By: Aaron Gunyon

The Indy Eleven have been busy in this off-season.  They have added several new players, a new head coach and now a new team president.  The team announced the hiring of retired Hulman and Company CEO Jeff Belskus on Monday afternoon.  The date coincided with a Brickyard Battalion year-end party.  It's not much of a conspiracy, but it is certainly no coincidence that Indy Eleven chose to welcome Belskus with the help of the most loyal supporters in the NASL.  However, not many were aware that today was the day...until today.  

Flat 12 Bierworks is a local brewery and a sponsor of the Eleven.  It has been the site of several big team announcements in the past, but today was different.  It was not a beer tasting or a naming and it wasn't just another introduction.  It was a goodbye.  A fact that failed to sink in for me until I sat down and began to write.  

Indy Eleven is a pro team, but it sometimes feels like a family.  This is a close group and the soccer community always seems small in this town.  Thank Peter Wilt for some of that.  He galvanized fans and brought legions together.  I see the same people tailgating in Lot B that I see and hear obnoxiously supporting Liverpool at my local soccer pub. That is not to say that all Indy fans support Liverpool, but that Indy welcomes supporters of all clubs and creeds.  Even Liverpool.  

There were fans here before and they will be here after, but somehow it feels like Wilt is the one who made it possible.  One must credit Erasal Ozdemir's vision that provides the backbone as do so many members of the front office staff, but Peter Wilt has been the soul.

"Today is bittersweet" was what my favorite Indy Eleven staff member told me in the crowded tasting room on Monday.  That was said with a new boss standing only a few feet directly behind me and an old boss just a few feet beyond that. There was a lot going on and much to process in such a short time so I doubt it has all really sunk in completely for most of the staff.  The official FO announcement was made only a few moments prior to the team's press release and that was just a few hours before this gathering. 

Wilt is going to stick around during the transition period and he is going to help with the continued lead up to the 2016 Spring Season, but he will be fully devoted to his next project very soon.  Season ticket holder number 001 is proud of his status and has no intentions of relinquishing his numerical designation, but he might not make it to many games at Carroll Stadium this year.  Perhaps he just wants first crack at season tickets at a new venue TBD.

Wilt is the man credited as Indy Eleven's first president and general manager, but he will be stepping down to pursue other opportunities and to make way for Belskus.  
Belskus' role as Team President is effective immediately.  He will be tasked with "strategy and leadership" to use his words and he already has some ideas based on his past experience in sports.  

"There are a lot of similarities in the way sports conduct themselves...(At IMS) We hosted racing events which depend on live attendance and we would spend our money trying to market events, attract, fans and convert fans and grow the fanbase.  And that is so relevant to what we are going to be doing here at Indy Eleven which is grow the fanbase."

When I heard about this hiring, my first reaction was to assume Indy Eleven were making another stadium push.  Anyone spending time as CEO for Hulman and Company is going to have a solid local political network in place.  I did not bring up the stadium or funding and Belskus had this to say about his past accomplishments which would fit into that plan.

"I have good experience with the state legislature...What Ersal and Indy Eleven is doing with the stadium is exactly where I've been." 

In 2015, Jeff Belskus retired as the CEO of a company responsible for "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing" and the largest single day sporting event in the world.  What could possibly lure this man to The Majestic Building in downtown Indianapolis?  Why Indy Eleven?

"I've had some good opportunities over the last year, but none of them have really excited me.  This one excites me.  This has got good growth potential.  It's a fun sport to be a part of.  Its interesting and it has fabulous growth potential."

I asked about Twitter and about grilled cheese sandwiches.  Belskus does not have an active Twitter account although he assured me that the teams PR director had already brought up the subject.  I forgot to ask if he is still rocking the Blackberry.  

This is not a like for like substitution although Belskus has different keys for different doors.  Indy Eleven will be making a tactical change as well and may have a "soccer" hire in the front office before too long.  It would make sense.  I bet we will see the new president shaking hands and kissing babies in the BYB lot before games and I hope to hear him swearing in the press box after, but I doubt National Grilled Cheese Month will be the same again.


Keep up to date with Bloody Shambles here there and everywhere......
SoundCloud - Our shows are also available on iTunes!

Writers on Twitter - James Cormack @BShambles_JC and Aaron Gunyon @agunyon

Please direct any email questions to and feel free to use the comment section below!

1 comment: