Photo courtesy Louisville City FC
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Three years ago, feeling Louisville needed professional sports to attract and retain talented young people in our community, 41 local residents launched a soccer club around which our town could rally. Aptly named Louisville City FC, the team has quickly built a reputation for winning and drawing some of the United Soccer League’s largest crowds.
A study conducted last year by the City of Louisville determined a soccer-specific stadium is needed to maintain and grow the professional game here. Now, after months of work with various property owners, Louisville City FC is a step closer to making that a reality.
Tracts of land are under option in the Butchertown Neighborhood, where the club plans to transform 40 acres into a 10,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium and adjacent development including space for offices, hotels and retail.
“Since receiving the results of the study, our board has explored a number of potential stadium locations, but none measured up to this site as a long-term home for Louisville City FC,” said club chairman John Neace. “We’re ready to solidify the future of LouCity, an important community asset.”
Through public-private partnership, LouCity intends to continue the revitalization of downtown Louisville and surrounding areas in space occupied by the former Challenger Lifts headquarters, an above-ground oil tank facility, a storage space and auto salvage lot.
A 10,000-seat soccer-specific stadium would open in 2020 on a site that is, as with the club, a winner. It’s situated next to Interstates 64 and 71, blocks from Main Street; a close walk from the Big Four Bridge; and within view of the downtown Louisville skyline.
LouCity is working with city government, Metro Council members and state economic development officials to make the project a reality. Construction of a stadium and nearby development, including office and retail space, would create jobs, drive tax revenues and spur economic growth beyond soccer.
“The concept of a master development agreement gives us the ability to build a stadium and commercial value around it that can assist in funding the stadium,” said LouCity board member Mike Mountjoy. “We want to thank Mayor Greg Fischer and his team for working side by side with us in planning this project.”
LouCity, which for now plays at Louisville Slugger Field, competes in the United Soccer League, sanctioned Division II in the United States below only Major League Soccer. The club has made back-to-back runs to the Eastern Conference Final of the USL Cup Playoffs after starting play in 2015.
The USL has mandated that its members all move into soccer-specific stadiums by 2020. Additionally, LouCity pays rental fees at Slugger Field, which it splits with the Louisville Bats baseball team, as well as the cost of converting the field for soccer. Sponsorship opportunities are limited, and concession revenue does not go to the soccer club.
LouCity commissioned global architecture firm HOK for stadium design of a facility expandable to 20,000 seats should the opportunity to move to Major League Soccer present itself. Initial renderings show seating within close vicinity of the pitch, a suite level and amenities including roofs and multiple video boards.
“I want to thank our owners for all of their work toward getting us into a home of our own,” said LouCity coach James O’Connor. “It’s vital we play on a proper pitch, and I know a soccer-specific stadium is something our fans deserve. It’s an exciting time to be a part of Louisville City FC.”
Last year, an average of 7,218 fans attended LouCity’s home games. Off to an unbeaten start, the club’s next game is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Slugger Field. Tickets are available by calling (502) 384-8799, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or online at LouisvilleCityFC.com/tickets. Current season ticket holders will receive seating priority in the new stadium.