Louisville City FC seeks to build new stadium in Butchertown

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After months of scoping out sites for a professional soccer stadium, Louisville City FC has made its choice: 40 acres in Butchertown not far from Waterfront Park.

The team’s owners said Wednesday that five parcels of land are under option for a proposed 10,000-seat venue as part of a broader retail, office and hotel complex that could open as early as 2020 – the United Soccer League’s deadline for its clubs to move into stadiums meant for soccer.

The location near Campbell and Adams streets was “far and away the best option,” John P. Hollenbach, a developer who is a part owner of the club, said at a news conference. The Portland neighborhood also was seriously considered but wasn’t able to accommodate eventual expansion plans for 20,000 seats, he said in an interview.

Louisville City board members told reporters that a mix of public and private funding would pay for the project, which city officials estimate could lead to $200 million in new investment. The stadium itself is expected to cost $40 million.

But team investors were hesitant to provide estimates of the anticipated contributions from Metro government, as well as how much money they would spend.

“We’re in discussions with the state and the Metro Council and obviously have been with the city for quite some time,” Hollenbach said. “We have an idea of what we need.”

Mayor Greg Fischer said there must first be "significant conversations" with the public about the city's contribution to the deal. And before Metro government pitches in, Fischer said Louisville City FC ownership must commit private funds and get "appropriate state assistance to make this project a reality."

"When those conditions are met, we will work with Metro Council to move the project forward," Fischer said in a prepared statement.

The property includes the Marshall’s Auto Parts lot, an above-ground oil tank facility, storage units and the former Challenger Lifts site. It is adjacent to the new Spaghetti Junction interchange and was spared when city and state officials steered the Ohio River Bridges Project away from encroaching on Butchertown in 2011.

It is just east of the Louisville Slugger Field baseball park, where the team has played since it joined the league in 2015.

Under the Louisville City FC proposal, the city would acquire the land, clear it and resolve any contamination from old oil tanks on the site, said Mike Mountjoy, a Louisville FC board member. Metro government would then turn over the land to the developers.

Team officials declined to say how much the land is expected to cost, citing confidentiality agreements.

But they said state government’s portion would be through a tax-increment financing district, or TIF, which returns a portion of new tax revenue generated at the site to the developers. The stadium sits outside a similar district for the KFC Yum! Center that has failed to meet projections, causing arena officials to seek state aid to avoid a default.

Mountjoy said a preliminary analysis shows the TIF could produce $100 million range in state revenues, with potentially $30 million to $35 million returned for development costs. The intent is for a portion of local taxes generated from the TIF, such as occupational taxes, to go to Metro government coffers.  

“The private funding will be almost all of it. We want to partner with the city. … We’d like to get some help from the state through a TIF, but in the end it’s going to be paid for by the private sector,” Mountjoy said.

Team officials said they are aware of odor complaints about the neighborhood’s JBS Swift pork processing plant. In fact, a smell was noticeable at the corner of Campbell and Adams Streets prior to Wednesday’s press conference.

They also pledged to work with the city about a homeless camp located on the 40-acre site.

While financing and other details still must be resolved, Louisville City FC chairman John Neace said he remains focused on a larger goal: bringing a Major League Soccer franchise to Louisville.

 “We’re building this thing to get an MLS franchise here,” he said. “You know, we’re not doing it just for what we’re doing today. So you need to keep that I mind as you look at what we’re trying to do here. It’s time we think bigger.”

Besides the stadium, the project envisions 400,000 feet of office space, two 250-room hotels and retail space. It also would build surface parking lots and a parking garage, according to Louisville City.

“We think we’re building a project that people want,” Hollenbach said.

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