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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- Utility costs for the Louisville Gardens, the old armory building which has sat empty for more than five years, have topped more than a quarter of a million dollars, a WDRB News investigation uncovered.
A review of the past five years worth of utility records show the city has spent more than $315,000 to keep the lights and the heat operating, according to records provided to the television station through an open records request.
"Just keeping (the building) to where everything doesn't deteriorate is a expensive to do that," said Mayor Greg Fischer in a recent interview.
Copies of the utility records show just how expensive it's been. Some months were as low as $350. Others more than $3,000. A handful were more $12,000. One LG&E bill was more than $16,000.
"Wow that's crazy. Why would you spend that much on a electric bill?" said Karen Monopulus, a wrestling fan who says she frequently attended events at The Gardens years ago.
When asked directly if he knew that the some lights and heat were left on all the time, Fischer said: "Well I hope not, I don't think so. But enough lights need to be on for safety purposes."
Over a period of weeks, a WDRB News crew monitored the building, recording the few lights that remain on - both outside and inside the building. A light in the main gym area appears to always be on. Louisville Metro Government refused our repeated requests to tour the building. While costs have gone down each year, Mayor Fischer says keeping the utilities running is necessary to prevent further deterioration.
"It's an issue for us. And it really points out too, that as a city, we have financial challenges with our budget. So to put $15 to $20 million into (the building) and have operating costs, we need viable concept and strategy beforehand," said Fischer.
But Fischer admits there is no plan to do anything with the building right now.
"When you bring a bill and say $31,000... that's necessary. But it points to some general dissatisfaction with the overall agreement that we've entered into," said Kevin Kramer, R - Council District 11.
The developers behind Fourth Street Live - the Baltimore-based Cordish Company - had agreed to revamp Louisville Gardens. But in August of last year, the company changed the development agreement - and its promise to redo The Gardens is now "optional."
Concern from council members appears to be shared on both sides of the political aisle.
"The number of us challenging, the number of us asking questions, the number of us concerned about the deal seems to be growing," said Kramer.
Councilman David Tandy, (D) - District 4, would like to see the building redeveloped, but that would cost upwards of $20 million and there are no current plans to do anything with the building.
"I think we will continue to push for and turn over every stone to see something come in there to bring it back," said Tandy.
Company officials with Cordish did not respond to our repeated attempts for answers on the future of the building. Fischer says the company is not standing in the way of progress and is happy if another deal were to pop up.
When asked directly about how long the building would continue to be mothballed, Fischer says the building has been "the victim of the recession. It started resting a little before the recession and then the recession hits and before what looked like a good development deal didn't materialize."
"Right now it's in a point where it's resting. And I think just like the YWCA was created into this beautiful Henry Clay...I think something like that is going to happen to the Louisville Gardens as well," Fischer added.
As the mayor put it, the property at 525 W. Muhammad continues to rest.
And rest assured: until a new tenant moves in, the city will keep a light on.