CRAWFORD | Louisville City Football Club is earning a home of it - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Louisville City Football Club is earning a home of its own

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Louisville mayor Greg Fischer was beating the drum -- literally -- in the Louisville City Football Club crowd Saturday night. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Louisville mayor Greg Fischer was beating the drum -- literally -- in the Louisville City Football Club crowd Saturday night. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Forgive me, Louisville City Football Club, it took me too long. For a professional team to draw the kinds of numbers that this team has drawn in its first season at Louisville Slugger Field should’ve required earlier and more persistent attendance on my part.

My only excuse is that there was always something in the way, it seemed, a vacation or my son’s Babe Ruth League baseball or a football function or a trip to Puerto Rico. Watching the Louisville Coopers support group file in for the game, I got the feeling they weren’t big on excuses where their preferred form of football is concerned. I’m pretty sure I saw one guy with a trident.

But on Saturday night, I got to right my great wrong. And in the process, I broke a rule of reporting, I talked to almost no one. A few fans. Nobody in any kind of official capacity. Not owner Wayne Estopinal or mayor Greg Fischer, who will meet on Monday to discuss the franchise’s future and possibilities for creating a home of its own. Not even players or coaches, not on this observation visit.

I talked to my son Jack, the aforementioned baseball aficionado, whose summary to me was, “It’s a different crowd from baseball.”

Well, yes. You don’t get a game-long drumline in baseball. It’s a younger crowd, a more energetic crowd.

But mainly, it’s a large crowd, 7,850 on Saturday night, despite competing with the Kentucky State Fair on a weekend night at the Fairgrounds. That’s the second-largest soccer crowd this season in Louisville’s professional baseball stadium.

Now, some perspective: The crowd still was smaller than every Saturday night crowd drawn this season by the Louisville Bats, who have averaged 9,639 in nine Saturday dates.

Now, some more perspective: The number isn’t that far off the baseball number — and the Bats aren’t playing in a soccer stadium.

Louisville Slugger field is great for baseball. It’s an awkward fit for soccer. The temporary turf over the baseball infield is fine, but it makes for difficult footing for the players. The seating doesn’t match the pitch in the soccer configuration.

It’s good for now. But give people an actual soccer stadium, with the ability to expand, and somewhere to park, and you’ll have a winning proposition for this city.

It should be an easy call. Raising the money, settling on the site and getting it all done, well, that’s never easy.

It doesn’t hurt to have the mayor leading the drumbeat for such a facility, which he has done on more than one occasion, and on Saturday did in a literal sense when he descended into the crowd, took up his drumsticks and started banging. And he looked as if he knew what he was doing.

What this franchise has done in its first year is deliver the message that Louisville is a solid player in professional soccer. 

In their first year in the United Soccer League, they’re second in the league in attendance, at 6,649 per game. Only a team in Sacramento, drawing 11,000-plus per game, had drawn more.

I know, there are some who resist the sport and its popularity. That’s all right. Nobody’s twisting your arm. You don’t have to like the sport. It’s doing fine, here and elsewhere.

But those who love it, really love it. And this franchise has brought together a passionate core of fans, a group that has grown since the season began and figures to keep growing.

Winning doesn’t hurt. The home team beat the Charleston Battery 3-1 Saturday with two goals from star Matt Fondy. Louisville City (13-4-6) is solidly in second place in the USL standings.

And on Tuesday night, with the visit of Orlando’s Major League soccer franchise for a friendly, they’ll likely play to their largest crowd of the season.

Right now, team ownership simply wants to make enough to sustain the franchise. That's hard to do when you play in a baseball stadium and all the concessions go to the stadium owner. Despite all that, fans are coming now in greater numbers than even at the beginning of the season. The novelty has worn off. Fan interest has not.

So, in terms of building a stadium, growing the franchise, and seeing if it doesn’t wind up as an expansion candidate for Major League Soccer, I say this could work.

From the standpoint of building a foundation, it already has.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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