Committee chooses new arena over renovating

Updated: April 15, 2005, 10:07 PM ET
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A committee has decided to examine building a new arena, rather than renovate the University of Louisville's current basketball home venue.

The Executive Committee of the Big East Facilities Task Force approved the motion in a meeting in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Friday. The committee was created with the mission of making the Cardinals' facilities competitive with the those of their Big East opponents. The Cardinals begin competition in the Big East in all sports in fall.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson's first preference for the location of the new venue is downtown Louisville, near 4th Street Live, an entertainment district several months old. Other downtown amenities within walking distance would include the under-construction Muhammad Ali Center, the Kentucky International Convention Center, and a newly opened Marriott hotel.

Cardinals athletics director Tom Jurich likes a downtown location as well, but closer to the riverfront, similar to Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park.

There is also a plan for a new arena to be built near the current one, 50-year-old Freedom Hall.

"Nobody's asked for my view, and my view very candidly, isn't very important," university president James Ramsey said. "If I had my druthers, I'd put it right over there on campus. ... Every option should be on the table. There should be no vested interest. Everybody should come and lay the facts on the table."

Ramsey has received e-mails, phone calls, and been stopped in public and accused of being "anti-downtown" in the past few days, he said. He pointed out in the meeting that the university has invested in downtown Louisville, including its Health Sciences Center downtown campus.

"We have a payroll in downtown Louisville of $300 million," he said. "We are downtown."

Mayor's spokesman Chad Carlton doesn't think the sides are far apart.

"It needs to be a thoughtful discussion not a sprint to judgment," Carlton said. "I think people are more closely aligned on this issue than it may seem at some points. I think there's a lot more consensus than there is conflict in this issue."

The task force also approved a motion which laid out a "critical list of essential needs" that would have to be included in any agreement, regardless of the location. That list included priority scheduling for the men's and women's basketball teams, revenue sharing for concessions, rights to sell luxury suites, court side seating and advertising, and a share of parking revenue.

At least one Task Force member questioned whether they would be requiring too much of a new landlord.

Harold Workman, chairman of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center Fair Board, said the requirements were similar to the current deal with Freedom Hall.

"These are not unreasonable," Workman said.

If the worst-case scenario comes down to the basketball team staying at Freedom Hall, Jurich says that's fine too.

"Remember one thing: we don't have to go," he said. "We went to the Final Four under these circumstances."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press