UPDATED: Louisville Urban League chosen to develop Heritage West

The Louisville Urban League will spearhead the development of an indoor-outdoor sports facility. | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

The city has chosen to partner with the Louisville Urban League to redevelop a long-vacant property in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood, city officials announced at a press conference Tuesday morning. The league proposed constructing a $30 million world-class indoor track and field athletic facility at the 24-acre Heritage West site at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.

“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. It will support local business and create jobs for local residents,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

A call for proposals from the city came after a development slated for the site, the West Louisville FoodPort, collapsed.

Urban League president and CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said the decision to submit a proposal to build a track and field facility came out from several place: prayer, a TV special about Usain Bolt, Coach Mozziz DeWalt’s longtime call for an indoor facility, and her owns experience running track growing up.

Reynolds said participating in track and field boosted her confidence as a young woman.

“I guess it’s what people feel like when they use drugs,” Reynolds recalled thinking after winning her first track meet. “You just want that feeling over and over and over again.”

The facility’s main focus will be track and field, but the 200-meter indoor track will be on a hydraulic system that will allow other sports such as volleyball or fencing to be held there in the off-season.

“We need something in West Louisville that brings people from outside. We can’t just have a Starbucks or a movie theater or yet another business that comes in and closes at 5 p.m., ” said Reynolds. “We need something that brings people into the community with disposable income.”

Once built, the 4,000-seat facility is estimated to draw 20,000 to 30,000 people to West Louisville each year during the indoor track season from December through March. Indoor track and field includes six field events and eight to 12 track events.

“It has worldwide popularity,” Karl Schmidtt, president and CEO of the Louisville Sports Commission, said, adding that there is a lack of facilities of this quality in the region.

USA Track & Field has already requested proposals for 2019-2020 indoor championships, he said. “I don’t think we are quite ready for that yet, but it just demonstrates the confidence that USA Track & Field has in the type of facility that we are talking about here.”

USA Track & Field, the ACC, local colleges, area high schools and club teams will use the facilities to host events or practices, Schmidtt said.

“There will be something going on in that facility every day and every weekend from December through March,” he said.

Given the size of the site, there also is room for outdoor facilities such as an outdoor track and soccer fields, as well as commercial development. Louisville Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, noted that the “soccer stadium” will play a role at the facility, but she and others declined to provide more specifics.

The city has agreed to financially support the project; Fischer and Reynolds said they were still negotiating how much money the city would chip in. The Urban League also will seek out corporate sponsorships, social impact investors and Community Reinvestment Act monies from banking partners to fund the project.

No timeline was given for when the Urban League hopes to break ground on the development, but Reynolds said she’d like it to be open by 2020. “We are going to move expeditiously,” she said.

The Urban League will continue to work with consultants including well-known developers Valle Jones and Tim Mulloy to move the project forward.

Mulloy told Insider Louisville that he was excited to be part of the project in part because his son is a Division I runner and because of the impact this type of development could have on the Russell neighborhood.

“I have seen this sport and know the need for facilities, but the most important reason is that is a fantastic piece of ground,” Mulloy said in an interview before the press conference. “I think this project, along with what will happen around it and on that site, including retail and other developments, can be transformative for not just that part of Louisville but the entire city.”

Five years from now, he predicted, the city will be hosting major track and field events at the site.

“It behooves all of us to support his project,” Mulloy said.

In addition to the track and field facility, the other proposals submitted included a state-of-the-art biotechnology research park, a food cooperative and a development with equestrian facilities, community gardens and a ropes course.

The development is expected to complement the estimated $250 million that is starting to be invested in the neighborhood, which includes $30 million from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to redevelop the 758-unit Beecher Terrace public housing complex.