The Louisville City Football Club (LCFC), the United Soccer League member which will begin play in the spring of 2015, will play its home games at Louisville Slugger Field, not in the University of Louisville’s new soccer-specific Lynn Stadium, where the University of Louisville men’s and women’s soccer teams will play.
Wayne Estopinal is a part owner of LCFC, which moved from Orlando to Louisville over the summer, and is also the president of The Estopinal Group LLC, which designed Lynn Stadium. Estopinal says Lynn Stadium is not big enough to accommodate LCFC.
“Lynn Stadium’s seating is in the neighborhood of about 5,000 and if we look at the other USL teams around the country, and the number of people they draw to their games based on their Metropolitan Statistical Area,” Estopinal said. “We really ought to be drawing about sixty-five hundred to seven thousand fans a game.”
Kenny Klein, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations and Sports Information Director at UofL, said there was never any thought of LCFC playing at Lynn Stadium.
“There have not been any discussions that I have been aware of; Lynn Stadium is for college soccer,” Klein said. “There can only be limited traffic around in that stadium.”
With Lynn Stadium out of the picture, LCFC will play home games at Louisville Slugger Field for the foreseeable future. For LCFC to be able to play in Slugger, the field itself is undergoing a few modifications. According to Gary Ulmer, President/CEO of the Louisville Bats, the Bats planted Bermuda grass a few years ago that is more durable than the previous bluegrass, which should be able to tolerate soccer. The pitching mound in Slugger Field will also be replaced with a retractable mound to make the field playable.
When Louisville City first announced that the team would become Slugger Field’s second tenant, there was potential for possible scheduling issues with the Bats.
“The Bats schedule will be determined first and LCFC will then fill in their dates making sure that there is adequate time after a soccer game and before a baseball game for us to get the field ready,” said Ulmer.
According to Ulmer, the deal between the two teams is that Louisville City will pay a per game fee to cover all utilities and cleaning of the stadium and will keep all revenue from ticket, sponsorship, advertising and merchandise sales, while the Bats will keep the profits from the sale of food at the games.
Even though Louisville FC will be playing in Slugger, Estopinal said that Slugger is not the permanent home of LCFC.
“The goal of the ownership group are to be in Slugger Field for not more than three years; given the nature of the deal, the business arrangement with the Bats. We really can’t afford to stay in Slugger very long, we won’t get any revenue other than the tickets we sell, so it benefits us greatly to get to a soccer specific venue.
According to Estopinal, Louisville City FC would prefer to be the primary tenant of the future stadium. Potential sites include the downtown Mainstreet area, the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, NuLu and Portland.
“Our first choice would be for a brand new, soccer specific, stadium; that would be fantastic,” said Estopinal. “We would design the stadium initially for nine to ten thousand seats, and if we are fortunate enough to go to the MLS after 2020, it would be expandable to probably twenty to twenty-one thousand.”
Louisville City FC has sold over one thousand season tickets for the 2015 season.
“The amount of season tickets sold is an encouraging sign because we haven’t started marketing much at all yet,” said Estopinal.
Estopinal and Ulmer agreed that the relationship between the two teams is a business relationship.
“Its a working relationship,” said Estopinal. “We’re both trying to figure out how we both can use the city’s baseball stadium and work with (The Bats) and to let them learn a little bit about soccer. Its going fine.”
Lynn Stadium will open Friday, Aug. 29 when the UofL men’s soccer team will play the University of Maryland at 8:30 p.m.