This whole Louisville Arena issue has been a fiasco from the start, and as I write this, the Committee is meeting, hearing chairman Jim Host report on how wonderfully received his group’s efforts are going with the NCAA. In fact, I’m sure he’s talking about all the really cool NCAA championships lining up to compete in the new arena in a few years.
Late last week, there were news reports on the committee’s efforts to attract six future championships to Louisville because of the great new arena. And just to make sure we’re all paying attention, the group, led by Greater Louisville Sports Commission chair Diane McGraw, claimed NCAA representatives took them seriously when they brought up the 2013 NCAA Ice Hockey Championships, known as the Frozen Four.
Seriously. Ice Hockey. In a town that has failed to support several minor league hockey franchises. In a sport that has scheduled its growing final competition exclusively in National Hockey League cities like Denver, Washington, Detroit and Minneapolis. In a city where the university doesn’t even have a team. Not surprisingly, no NCAA officials were available to comment on the organization’s interest in Louisville.
Host and his committee have pushed other unrealistic ideas through the media in their attempts to justify the building. Most recently, it was Host’s contention first that he was close to signing a naming sponsor, only to back off and hire a consulting firm to do it, at a hefty cost. At one point having a sponsor was a make-or-break issue, then later it was not so important. Oh, yes, and Team Services LLC, the company getting a $120,000 base fee and a percentage of whatever it sells, has a long-time, cozy relationship with Host.
At one point, Host talked of how essential a hotel was for the project’s success, only to reveal later that the hotel space wasn’t needed to make the project work.
News about the NCAA Championships recruitment last week overshadowed a potentially bigger source of dates for the new arena — professional football. Will Wolford held a press conference to announce that unless someone in the city ponies up soon, our city’s arena football team, the Fire, will move on to a city whose leaders will embrace its brand of wholesome entertainment. Wolford, who wants to move up to the big leagues of arena football, said everything he’s doing is pointing toward a move to the new arena in a few years. But his announcement elicted zero reaction or words of support from those behind the arena, who theoretically have much to gain by having a tenant other than the University of Louisville.
The Fire, which has been attracting decent crowds at Freedom Hall, would certainly fill more of the arena’s 22,000 seats than women’s basketball games.
And one more note on the Arena controversy — Billy Reed, the one journalist in this town following the story with a critical eye, has written on his blog that there is a connection between the campaign to fund libraries in Louisville with the arena project. That may sound far-fetched, but so does spending $63 million to move some power equipment across the street for LG&E.
So expect some big news from today’s arena committee meeting — just don’t expect it be realistic.