Cordish obligation to revamp Louisville Gardens 'optional'

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A recent change in the development agreement between the Cordish company and Louisville Metro government has relieved the Baltimore-based Cordish from its obligation to renovate the Louisville Gardens facility.

The venue, which currently sits empty near 5th and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, will require $15 million in renovations, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told WDRB News on Monday. Cordish's obligation to the Gardens is now "optional," Fischer said.

"Louisville Gardens and Cordish is optional now. So the city can move how we want and they can too. So it gives us more flexibility in terms of what the next steps are with Louisville Gardens," Fischer told WDRB News.

But Ashley Miller, a spokeswoman for Cordish, says an "exciting plan" is in the works for the Gardens.

"We are working closely with the city on an exciting plan to expedite the revitalization of the Gardens. A renovated Gardens can be an enormous win-win. There is still work to do but many of the key pieces are now in place including a world-class venue operator as well as an anchor team," Miller wrote in a statement.

The statement did not address a dollar amount, time frame or name an operator, despite a reporter's request to do so.

Fischer told WDRB News that there are currently no plans in the works for Louisville Gardens, adding only that some parties have expressed interest. The change in the development agreement allows Cordish first right of refusal but also gives the city the option to explore "other persons or entities to lease, sell or manage the Gardens."

Fischer says he's looking to others for business plans and wants the venue to be operational 200 nights a year.

"There's no immediate plan but we need as much flexibility as possible," Fischer said.

The center city project still requires the company to develop the area around Fourth Street.

"It's a sad situation that we have no control whatsoever," said Metro Councilman Kelly Downard, R-District 16, who has been a frequent critic of Cordish.

Downard says the whole thing has been a raw deal.

"We've been dealing with them from a position of weakness from day one. They just tell us what they want and we give it to them," said Downard.

Fischer disagrees, saying the city is now in better position to have control over the Gardens' future.

Copyright 2012 WDRB News All Rights Reserved.