Soccer club owner: Stadium site garnering interest from entertainment companies, could host women’s team
Louisville City FC co-owner Mike Mountjoy said the Butchertown soccer stadium site could see more entertainment venues than originally expected — and eventually host a women’s team, too.
Club owners have been contacted by two groups, including one from California, that have proposed ideas for entertainment projects near the $65 million stadium, Mountjoy said Tuesday afternoon. And National Women’s Soccer League President Amanda Duffy has talked with local officials about LouCity eventually fielding a women’s team. Duffy formerly served as LouCity’s president.
Mountjoy stressed, though, that discussions are in the very early stages and that club owners remain focused on getting the stadium built.
Construction cranes and metal beams are reaching skyward at the $65 million stadium site. The club expects to host its first match in the venue in spring 2020. The stadium will have 11,700 seats, though Mountjoy said its capacity will be about 14,000, as most of the die-hard fans will congregate behind the goals in standing-room-only areas.
Mountjoy, speaking at Akasha Brewing Co. at the monthly luncheon of the Women in Commercial Real Estate Louisville, emphasized that to make the stadium’s finances work, it must host events other than the men’s soccer games.
LouCity plays in the second division and hosts 17 games per season. Much like other venues, such as Slugger Field or the KFC Yum! Center, the yet-to-be-named soccer stadium will have to host concerts and other gatherings, though Mountjoy said many could be affiliated with soccer.
The club could invite fans to the local stadium to watch away games on the big screen, generating revenue through concessions. Public viewing parties for international matches, the World Cup and the UEFA Champions League also have drawn huge crowds all over the world.
And a women’s team, which also would regularly host matches in the stadium, could provide a revenue boost from tickets and concessions.
“It clearly would be something worth considering,” Mountjoy said, though he added that such a venture, much like the club’s eventual pursuit of a Major League Soccer franchise, is years away.
Site development critical
Mountjoy, wearing a purple LouCity scarf, also told the audience Tuesday that the success of the stadium depends in large part on the other planned developments on the 35-acre site.
The stadium is financed by a bank loan, part of which is to be serviced by tax revenue generated from other projects on the site. Total investments in the site likely will exceed $200 million, Mountjoy said, though filling the entire 35 acres may take a decade.
Beyond the potential entertainment venues, he said club owners envision retail, office space and restaurants and have been approached by brewers and distillers.
Given the difficult prospects of trying to fill office space, Mountjoy said the entertainment venues make sense. They also would fit into the concept of the owners, who tried to get the TopGolf project to the site, but could not do so because of space constraints.
Mountjoy reiterated that the club’s owners envision the club as an investment in the community. He joked that he has told the owners for years that in all likelihood, the only dividend they would see from their investment would be two season tickets — and only for the regular season.
But even from a financial perspective, the owners’ investment has appreciated nicely. They bought the franchise for $800,000. USL Championship franchises now sell for about $10 million, Mountjoy said.
He also encouraged the local business community to continue to support the club, because it would help them attract and retain talent, especially among millennials, a demographic in which soccer enjoys a higher popularity than among other generations.
“This town … needs a professional sports team,” Mountjoy said.
While the stadium project is progressing nicely, the soccer team is finding itself in unfamiliar territory: The two-time defending champion is sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference, having lost its season opener at North Carolina by 1-4. LouCity will play at Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 15, and then host its season home opener at Slugger Field at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 23.