The event was part celebration, part fundraiser, with supporters pledging nearly $300,000 in funds for the project.
By the end of 2020, the Louisville Urban League plans to transform 24 acres of contaminated land in west Louisville into an indoor-outdoor track and field complex that will be a place for families and students to gather and learn.
Political, faith and community leaders joined Sadiqa Reynolds, CEO and president of the Louisville Urban League, to break ground on the abandoned site at 30th St. and Muhammad Ali Blvd. on Tuesday afternoon.
The event was part celebration, part fundraiser, with Councilwoman Keisha Dorsey (D-3) leading the gathered crowd in a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and supporters pledging nearly $300,000 in funds for the project.
That brought the total raised to nearly $19 million, although Reynolds said the group needs $40 million to execute her complete vision, which includes an indoor track on hydraulics that can be lowered to host concerts or fencing competitions, outdoor wildlife classrooms, bowling alleys and healthy food concessions.
It was a scene embedded with faith, with Pastor F. Bruce Williams of Bates Memorial Baptist Church opening the ceremony with a prayer.
“Father, we thank you for this moment,” he began. “We believe that this is holy ground. And that you and your mysterious Providence has kept this in Divine escrow, for this moment, for this revolutionary purpose.”
Later, Reynolds recalled her prayers for a solution when the Foodport project planned for the site — which had been contaminated by tobacco manufacturers and subsequently became vacant — fell through.
She said she sees it as an answer to the redlining and neglect that afflicted this area and led to its current economically depressed state.
“To me, an investment in this project is an exact response to a redlining report,” Reynolds said. “You are saying, ‘We have read the data, we have seen the data, it is broken policy that has created this and we are going to invest in the fix.”
Reynolds referred to the “miracle” of getting the projects to this point, which she said is enough to fund the first phase of the complex. That includes building the outdoor track and purchasing a prefabricated building to house the indoor track.
And she said the groundbreaking doesn’t mark the end of the League’s fundraising campaign. Earlier this summer, the group launched a marketing effort to raise $20 million by selling naming rights to the facility’s planned 4,000 seats for $5,000 apiece.
On Tuesday, individuals and groups purchased more than three dozen seats. Reynolds said there are “plenty” more available, though she did not give more detail.
The complex is one of four major projects currently planned for west Louisville. The others are a new YMCA that will open this fall, the redevelopment of Beecher Terrace and the stalled Passport corporate headquarters. Learn more about them here.