Aging seats cut capacity of Freedom Hall
The reduced capacity – from roughly 19,000 to current levels of slightly more than 13,000 – threatens to keep Louisville from competing for at least two events that require larger venues
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Freedom Hall is starting to feel its age.
The capacity of the arena at the Kentucky Exposition Center has dropped by about 30 percent due to aging seats that pose safety concerns, according to the Kentucky State Fair Board.
The portable seat structures in the building’s end zone, as well as sideline bleachers, need to be repaired or replaced, Kentucky Exposition Center officials told members of the Kentucky State Fair Board at its meeting on Thursday.
The reduced capacity – from roughly 19,000 to current levels of slightly more than 13,000 – threatens to keep Louisville from competing for at least two events that require larger venues, said Dave Patrone, senior sales manager at the exposition center.
“We’re at the stage where we have to make a decision: Do we put the money into this, or do we reach back out and re-evaluate the business that we want to be on the short list for?” Patrone said in an interview.
He said Freedom Hall no longer meets the requirements for two organizations in the “education market sector” looking to choose cities for events in 2022 and 2024. He declined to name the groups.
Patrone said he doesn’t expect the shortage will put Louisville at a competitive disadvantage in the future. But he did tell fair board members the Q Fest country music festival will no longer be held at Freedom Hall, in part because of the seating issue.
“The potential gross of Freedom Hall is less than it used to be – substantially – so that means to the promoter that they have the opportunity to make much less money in that venue, and it looks less attractive,” he said.
The end zone seats were added during the renovation of Freedom Hall in 1984 but are now a “safety issue,” board spokeswoman Amanda Storment said.
Anthony Leachman, interim CEO of the Kentucky State Fair Board, said officials are completing a strategy for updating the arena.
Freedom Hall was the home to University of Louisville basketball teams from the mid-1950s until 2010, when the KFC Yum! Center opened downtown. It now mainly hosts concerts and other events, including horse shows during the Kentucky State Fair.