WDRB 41 Louisville News

The Louisville Urban League, in conjunction with Metro government, plans to build a $30 million indoor track and field facility at the Heritage West site in the Russell neighborhood.

Posted: Sep 19, 2017 10:18 AM EDT

Updated: Sep 19, 2017 5:08 PM EDT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Metro government has chosen the Louisville Urban League to build an indoor track and field complex in western Louisville, part of a $30 million, mixed-use project that supporters say could vie for NCAA and national events and bring in thousands of visitors each year.

Mayor Greg Fischer said Tuesday that the proposal was selected from four submitted for the city-owned land at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard in the Russell neighborhood once slated for the FoodPort hub.

A committee of city staff and volunteers recommended the nonprofit Urban League’s idea after a process that included seeking input from neighbors and others in the area, Fischer said. Besides the track and field facilities, plans call for retail space, restaurants and a hotel on the 24-acre site not far from the Shawnee Expressway.

“The Urban League’s plan reflects the community’s desire for a project that will bring immediate life to this key piece of land and provide healthy outlets for youth and adults to engage in a variety of sports and other activities,” he said.

Sadiqa Reynolds, the Urban League’s president, said she was hopeful that the complex could be finished and in use by 2020.

But there was no mention of how the project would be financed during a press conference at Metro Hall announcing that the city has signed a letter of intent with the Urban League to continue negotiations. Fischer and Reynolds said in interviews that the goal is a mix of public and private revenues.

For now, however, there is no definitive financing plan.

Reynolds said naming rights and private fundraising would complement a yet-to-be-determined city contribution. Fischer said incentives such as tax increment financing, as well as bonds and a direct city allocation, are all “on the table.”

“This will be a combination of all of us working together to raise this $30 million,” said Reynolds, who left the Fischer administration to become the Urban League’s president in 2015.

After the developers of the FoodHub project announced last summer that their project was not moving forward, the city sought and received four proposals for the site. Those included a community gardens, a biotechnology research park and a food co-op that ultimately withdrew its application

Develop Louisville, the city department that oversees permitting and land planning, declined to provide the names of the people on the committee that recommended the Urban League proposal. Agency spokesman Will Ford said in an email that the “citizen volunteers” on the panel were told their identities would not be disclosed.

The indoor track and field facility is the centerpiece of the project. It would include enough seats — 4,000 – to compete for NCAA and national events during the indoor track season between December and March, said Karl Schmitt, president and CEO of the Louisville Sports Commission.

“We’re talking about a world-class indoor track facility,” he said.

High school and college track teams would use the venue for dozens of practices per week, according to Urban League projections that anticipate 12 state and national events per year.

Schmitt said there is only one similar facility in the state, but it is on the University of Kentucky’s campus and is not widely accessible. The most comparable arenas are in Birmingham, Ala., and Geneva, Ohio, he said.

The project has the backing of prominent Louisvillians and civic leaders — including University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich; Republic Bank chairman and CEO Steve Trager; and developer Steve Poe.

USA Track & Field’s CEO, Max Siegel, also endorsed the plan. The organization also has worked with Louisville officials to ensure the design meets the standards for big events, spokeswoman Jill Geer said.

Geer said that while the entire sport is growing, “there’s more of a dearth of quality indoor facilities that can host a national level event.”

The Urban League also plans to use the track facility for other uses, including concerts and other sports. The Louisville City FC professional soccer team also plans to hold some practices and camps at the complex, said Tim Mulloy, a member of the team’s ownership group who is adviser to the Urban League.

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, [email protected], on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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