New arena being considered for U of L

Atlanta-based Rosser International pitched a $162 million arena plan to replace 50 year-old Freedom Hall to the Big East Facilities Task Force, comprised of University of Louisville and local officials Monday afternoon.

Atlanta-based Rosser International pitched a $162 million arena plan to replace 50 year-old Freedom Hall to the Big East Facilities Task Force, comprised of University of Louisville and local officials.

The proposal, one of four options - the other three called for renovations of Freedom Hall - presented by Fred Krensen, an architect at Rosser International, calls for a 21,000-seat arena to be constructed at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center at the site of the old Cardinal Stadium, the former home of the Louisville Redbirds and U of L football program. The new arena would include 2,000 club-level seats, 60 luxury suites, and a 3,000-space parking structure. Renovation of Freedom Hall could cost between $119-141 million.

Unlike it's current arrangement with the state-owned Freedom Hall, U of L would have exclusive scheduling rights in a new arena at the KFEC.

The U of L task force will meet Friday to discuss further the four arena proposals presented Monday, and the group appears to favor building a new arena instead of renovating the existing Freedom Hall.

"(A new arena) may make the most sense in the long term (because) Freedom Hall is 50-years old," Junior Bridgeman, a member of the U of L Board of Trustees, said Monday during a scheduled press conference.

Louisville Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich echoed Bridgeman's sentiment.

"It was a very impressive presentation, and it's very difficult to argue with right now," Jurich said. "We have a 24-year contract with the (KFEC), and we're (tied) in with them."

Jurich indicated that a new arena on the state-owned grounds of the KFEC would have several positive financial benefits for U of L. Besides much of the anticipated funding coming from the state, U of L would likely also receive monies from parking, concessions, advertising, and ticket and luxury-box sales.

"There are so many uses for the old Freedom Hall," said Jurich. "The new Freedom Hall would take a lot of pressure off (old Freedom Hall). There is so much business to go around."

The idea behind building the arena at the KFEC is that it would be the centerpiece of what officials term the "Louisville Sports Corridor," an ambitious athletic facilities expansion roughly extending east-west along Central Parkway, and including Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Jim Patterson Field, and a new indoor football practice facility.

The proposal figures to place U of L at odds with city leaders, including Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, who prefer a new arena be built downtown near Fourth Street Live.

"Communication is very important during this process is important to us, and we have very good communication with the state," Jurich said. "I can't say that about other entities."

State Representative Larry Clark, a democrat from Louisville, said a new arena at the KFEC would be the best option to help ensure support from the state legislature.

"I think it's (new arena at KFEC) the right way to go and the easiest sell to the state legislature," said Clark. "If we build it at the fairgrounds, we'll be able to maintain it at a lesser cost. We can also coordinate all the events, instead of competing with the downtown arena, where we would have two different people competing for the same dollar. It would be a great advantage for us."

The U of L task force also considered plans to expand Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. When the committee reconvenes Friday, they'll decide whether to pursue plans to build a new arena or expand Freedom Hall.


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