Indianapolis' new pro soccer team celebrated several milestones, Tuesday.
Indy Eleven signed its first player, unveiled its new jerseys, and announced rising season ticket sales during a packed event at The Rathskeller, downtown.
Goalkeeper Kristin Nicht, 31, of Germany agred to a multi-year deal (team would not disclose exact terms) and says he is excited to be the face of the franchise.
"I hate to lose and I really mean it," said the 2012 USL Pro Goalkeeper of the Year. "I will bring 100 percent will to be successful here. In every training session, in every game, in every minute, I'm connected to soccer."
The franchise will fill out the rest of the roster in the coming months.
The Eleven will wear white jerseys made by Diadora during road games and fans will vote online to determine if the Eleven will wear red or blue at home. Each will sport a the logo of corporate sponsor, Honda, on the front.
The franchise and car company agreed to a three-year, $900,000 deal.
Team President and General Manager Peter Wilt says the jerseys are symbolic of the team philosophy.
"The uniform itself represents the community and that's important," he said. "We are trying to have this team, the 11 athletes on the field, representing the fans in the stands. If we accomplish that, that's real tribalism. That will allow this team to be here for generations to come."
The franchise has already sold 6,000 season tickets. Wilt initially hoped to attract 5,000 fans and says the early support gives him confidence the team will be a success.
"We have more season ticket deposits than we expected attendance," said Wilt. "I'm blown away by that. It's really a reflection of the community, the support, and the readiness for professional soccer in Indianapolis."
Janet Abel-O'Neill is one of those season ticket holders. She secured a pair of tickets for the inaugural season.
"The energy, that's what I love about soccer," she said. "The energy in soccer and the fans - it's a unique community of people. They really have an energy that is very positive."
Abel-O'Neill has lived in Indianapolis, moving from California which already has professional soccer. But, she says there is a different feel around the launch of the Eleven franchise.
"In California, even though there is a big soccer community there for kids, it doesn't really translate to adults. Here you can see it's translated to adults and that's what really makes me excited," she said. "When you get the adults involved, that's where the money is and adults want to spend money for their kids. So, when you come up with a team like this, there is a huge youth community and now they have created a professional team for their kids to support, which will make it much more interactive and interesting."
And keeping the team interactive and interesting is what owner Ersal Ozdemir says is key to continuing to build momentum for the team leading up to its first match in April.
"We will continue to add exciting, successful events to the organization," he said. "There is more to come in the upcoming months which will continue to build on this as you start to see the players and the characters and the team. There is more to come. We will keep it exciting until we hit the soccer ball for the first time."