Louisville mayor wants to give $30m to minor-league soccer stadium that will cost maybe $30m

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced yesterday that he plans to sell $30 million of bonds to provide money for the city’s previously announced soccer stadium, and wait, what, Louisville announced public funding for a soccer stadium and I missed it? Well, look at that:

Mayor Greg Fischer announced Friday that the city wants to fork over $30 million to help local investors build a 10,000-seat stadium for the club in the Butchertown area…

“Soccer is a sport that is obviously attractive to everybody, but especially millennials and our international population as well,” Fischer said in his podcast Friday morning. “We want to compete for an MLS franchise at some point in time, and having a dedicated soccer stadium is required for that.”

The city money would go for land and infrastructure costs, not directly to construction (which will cost an estimated … actually, nobody seems to have estimated that yet, though previous estimates were in the $30-50 million range, and the overall development that would include the soccer stadium is projected at $200 million). And Louisville City FC, the USL team that will play there, will pay the city $14.5 million over 20 years in rent, which is a –6.5% return on investment.

There are oh so many questions here, as befits a plan that was announced via podcast:

  • Who’s going to pay maintenance and operating costs and cost overruns on this thing?
  • What does the Louisville Courier-Journal mean when it reports: “Leveraging the deal will involve the city applying for a mixed-use tax increment financing, or TIF district, with the state. If approved, Fischer’s office said the city will not commit any of its local property tax revenues to that TIF”? So it would just be redirected state tax money? Redirected from where, exactly? And seriously, nobody in Louisville has learned their lessons about the dangers of TIFs yet, despite the city pretty much being the poster child for the dangers of TIFs?
  • When Fischer says he wants to “compete for an MLS franchise,” does he realize that Louisville is one of the few cities in America that hasn’t yet applied for an MLS expansion franchise? Or is he just figuring he’ll get to jump the line once he has a shiny new stadium (maybe) or that MLS will eventually hand out enough teams that everybody who wants one will get one (even more likely).

On the one hand, $30 million for a soccer stadium complex is chicken feed when you have states coughing up $750 million for NFL stadiums. On the other, $30 million in subsidies for a minor-league (for now) soccer stadium that may only cost $30 million to build in the first place is kind of significant. Hopefully there are some Louisville city council hearings to come so we can learn more about this thing, or at least some more podcast episodes.

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8 comments on “Louisville mayor wants to give $30m to minor-league soccer stadium that will cost maybe $30m

  1. MLS loves organic growth and 8800 people per game is impressive at that level. Not a bad deal if development promised is delivered and property taxes paid on development. However can see this project paying the price for the Yum center.

    1. Not sure MLS can be said to “love organic growth” when teams like NYCFC and LAFC continue to be created out of thin air…

      10,000 capacity isn’t nearly enough for what Don Garber and his cohorts would want in a new stadium, so any bid the team/city may make would be years, and perhaps even decades, down the road. Although, given how intent the league seems to be on expanding, no city in North America will ever be out of the running in that regard.

    2. And if I had wheels, I’d be a trolley.

      That “if” is the crux of the argument. In the vast majority of cases, “if” never comes close to happening–including in Louisville.

      Louisville is a small city. They have no business and no money to try to keep up with major league stadium demands. They even got ripped off by a college that isn’t even able to move.

  2. Nothing says the city learned its lesson from the financial mess of building basketball arena for 15 games per year like building a soccer stadium for 15 games per year.

    1. And now that arena could lose the 15 games a year that it was built for, at least for a few years, depending on how this latest Louisville hoops fiasco unfolds.

  3. In the words of the three sages: Rez Rek, SNYP Life, and Beef ENT

    Make money money money make money money money,
    Take money money money take money money money!

    1. In as much as I find it silly that soccer teams in this country feel compelled to call their franchise something something “FC” the idea of a soccer team in Kentucky calling themselves KFC would almost make it all worth it. The face of Darrel Hammond as the Colonel can be on the home jersey, Norm MacDonald the road, and Rob Riggle the alternate.

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