LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A committee has decided to examine
building a new arena, rather than renovate the University of
Louisville's current basketball home venue.
The Executive Committee of the Big East Facilities Task Force
approved the motion in a meeting in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on
Friday. The committee was created with the mission of making the
Cardinals' facilities competitive with the those of their Big East
opponents. The Cardinals begin competition in the Big East in all
sports in fall.
Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson's first preference for the
location of the new venue is downtown Louisville, near 4th Street
Live, an entertainment district several months old. Other downtown
amenities within walking distance would include the
under-construction Muhammad Ali Center, the Kentucky International
Convention Center, and a newly opened Marriott hotel.
Cardinals athletics director Tom Jurich likes a downtown
location as well, but closer to the riverfront, similar to
Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park.
There is also a plan for a new arena to be built near the
current one, 50-year-old Freedom Hall.
"Nobody's asked for my view, and my view very candidly, isn't
very important," university president James Ramsey said. "If I
had my druthers, I'd put it right over there on campus. ... Every
option should be on the table. There should be no vested interest.
Everybody should come and lay the facts on the table."
Ramsey has received e-mails, phone calls, and been stopped in
public and accused of being "anti-downtown" in the past few days,
he said. He pointed out in the meeting that the university has
invested in downtown Louisville, including its Health Sciences
Center downtown campus.
"We have a payroll in downtown Louisville of $300 million," he
said. "We are downtown."
Mayor's spokesman Chad Carlton doesn't think the sides are far
"It needs to be a thoughtful discussion not a sprint to
judgment," Carlton said. "I think people are more closely aligned
on this issue than it may seem at some points. I think there's a
lot more consensus than there is conflict in this issue."
The task force also approved a motion which laid out a
"critical list of essential needs" that would have to be included
in any agreement, regardless of the location. That list included
priority scheduling for the men's and women's basketball teams,
revenue sharing for concessions, rights to sell luxury suites,
court side seating and advertising, and a share of parking revenue.
At least one Task Force member questioned whether they would be
requiring too much of a new landlord.
Harold Workman, chairman of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition
Center Fair Board, said the requirements were similar to the
current deal with Freedom Hall.
"These are not unreasonable," Workman said.
If the worst-case scenario comes down to the basketball team
staying at Freedom Hall, Jurich says that's fine too.
"Remember one thing: we don't have to go," he said. "We went
to the Final Four under these circumstances."