Louisville heavy hitters seek up to 100 acres for high-powered sports academy

The Louisville Sports Commission and Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau lobbied Wednesday for the construction of a new sports academy complex in Louisville that could accommodate 20 to 24 rectangular sports fields.

Karl Schmitt, president and CEO of the Louisville Sports Commission, and Karen Williams, president and CEO of the LCVB, both advocated for the facility during Louisville Business First's Access Louisville panel discussion on the local tourism and hospitality industries. The event was held at the University Club on the University of Louisville's Belknap Campus Wednesday morning.

They were joined on the panel by Jill Klus, senior sales manager of the Kentucky International Convention Center; Scott Shoenberger, CEO of the Al J. Schneider Co.; and Scott Stuckey, general manager of the Omni Louisville Hotel.

The sports academy could make Louisville more competitive for travel sports and more enticing for a Major League Soccer franchise, leaders of both agencies said.

A dozen cities are vying for a handful of MLS expansion spots. Louisville has not submitted a bid because Louisville City FC owners are still finalizing financing and construction details for a standalone soccer stadium in Louisville. It would be on 40 acres, which are under contract in Butchertown, and could house a minimum of 10,000 seats and be expandable for MLS play.

Schmitt told those in attendance that Louisville competes with larger cities, such as Atlanta, Chicago and New York, to book sporting events, and most of those cities are sitting on huge war chests to finance millions and even billions of dollars in new sports facilities.

But you don't have to build a massive football stadium like the Dallas Cowboys have to be competitive, he said, adding that smaller cities have added multiple complexes for a fraction of the cost.

The complex would be designed with fields ideal for numerous sports, including soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, and would be geared toward youth and travel sports, Schmitt noted.

Karen Williams said officials are searching for 80 to 100 acres for the complex. Projected costs were not disclosed, and she and Schmitt didn't say who would take the lead on developing and financing such a facility.

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