You’ve probably already seen the tweets, the Reddit posts, or the news articles from the Courier-Journal, WDRB, or Louisville Business First, but the club issued a press release this morning confirming rumors that Louisville City intends to build its soccer specific stadium in Butchertown. Details relating to financing have not yet been solidified, per a statement from Mayor Greg Fischer, but at this point everyone’s pretty excited. Also, you might notice a certain infamous plaque in one of the renderings?
From a location perspective, I think this site is great. Butchertown is a historic and diverse area of town, close to downtown, and the proposed generally pretty accessible from downtown and River Road. I’m hopeful that the club works with TARC at some point to put together some better bus service to the area, as right now busses only run down Story Avenue. It’s a pretty short walk from Story to the proposed site, less than half a mile.
The big remaining hurdle, of course, is financing. John Neace has stayed on message in his discussions about financing the project, calling it a “public-private partnership.” To be fair, most publicly funded stadia are public-private partnerships, where the public owns the land and the building and the private entity or club pays the public some fairly cheap rent to use it. It’s what the Bats and the Cardinals basketball teams are doing right now at Slugger Field and the Yum! Center.
Early word is that this project will be funded a little differently. Mike Mountjoy, one of the club’s owners, told the Courier-Journal’s Dan Karrell this morning that the club, through different ownership entities, has purchased options to buy five parcels of land on which to build the stadium and other development projects. Their intention is to sell those options to the city, which will conduct the actual purchases of the property, and the club will eventually buy them back, assumedly in regular installments over a term of say, 20-30 years. I’m guessing on the term, but it seems sensible.
The club is (wisely, in my opinion) pitching this stadium project as a package real estate development deal. Also included in the project is a hotel and retail space, and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some mixed-use housing in there as well. That sort of development plan is much more palatable to politicians and the public because there’s the chance that there’s a real return on investment, and an improvement in services available to local residents. We all know that stadiums themselves aren’t exactly tax-revenue generators, but retail and hotel room sales certainly are. The other benefit is that those two property uses hardly exist in that area of Louisville; the nearest hotel to the proposed site is basically downtown, and the nearest retail outlets are mainly up the road in Clifton on Frankfort Avenue and lower Brownsboro Road.
The club still has work to do to figure out exactly how financing will work, and the Metro Council meat grinder will probably end up making some changes to City’s proposal, but I feel very good overall about the proposal and its chances of becoming a reality.
First thing’s first, though: let’s kick Tampa Bay’s ass on Saturday. COME ON, CITY!