Ownership posed with Mayor Fischer and new coach James O'Connor
Coopers members pose with an inaugural flag
Slugger Field with cones showing where the soccer field will be
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - A professional soccer team is headed to Louisville, according to an announcement made Wednesday afternoon by city leaders.
Local architect Wayne Estopinal took the podium in the concourse of Louisville Slugger Field to make the official announcement that Mayor Greg Fischer called "the worst kept secret in the history of Louisville sports."
It's been a well known endeavor, but the cat was really let out of the bag when Fischer's budget proposal included more than $581,000 to renovate Slugger Field for the pro soccer team. "That's your money," he said. Fischer says the city's investment is matched by $2.2 million in private investments.
He says the city will be in a profit-sharing arrangement and he pledged to look out for the tax payer's return on investment.
Estopinal praised Fischer and his office saying, "the mayor and his staff have worked exceptionally hard to make this possible."
Fischer says he is excited to be a part of the announcement and says soccer is the sport of now. "I'll be at the USA v. Nigeria soccer game in Jacksonville," Fischer said of his new weekend plans.
"We are pleased to make an investment in this as a city," Fischer said. He went on to thank the Louisville Bats and president Gary Ulmer, "They've had a can-do attitude towards this whole thing."
Signs depicted plans for the team to build a headquarters at Slugger Field near Witherspoon street and cones demarcated the future outlines of the field the team will play on.
Shortly after the setup was underway, fans began streaming into the concourse. When USL president Tim Holt took the podium, he recalled the announcement of "USL's flagship team" Orlando City Soccer Club in 2010. "There was about a third of this attendance at that event."
"I am increasingly confident in the energy in this room, that Louisville City FC is going to be a success," Holt said.
Estopinal has been working on bringing a team to Louisville for several years and was overwhelmed by emotion when he introduced the founder of Orlando City Soccer Club, someone he has worked closely with.
Estopinal and Mayor Fischer both remarked about the passion they have seen from the Louisville Coopers, a supporters group that has been a big part of the push for the team.
Coopers members turned out in droves for the event Wednesday and their t-shirts and scarves sold fast.
The Coopers had pledged increasing numbers of season ticket commitments over the past few months, upwards to almost 2,000, and Estopinal called them out as he announced that 278 season ticket deposits had been made in the roughly 24 hours since LouisvilleCityFC.com began accepting them.
The team's head coach will be James O'Connor, a current player and assistant coach at Orlando City. He has previously played for 2014 English Premier League teams Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion.
Estopinal announced that he will soon be opening up a logo design competition to replace the current logo.