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Scheduling Concerns Lead Soccer Franchise to Ask Louisville to Adjust Its Plans

Scheduling concerns have led to a snag in the plans to bring a professional soccer team to Louisville.The Louisville Bats' schedule would force the USL Pro soccer team to play as many as a third of its matches on weeknights, which may reduce projected attendance by 50 percent, said Wayne Estopinal a minority owner of the Orlando City SC who is leading efforts to relocate the franchise to Louisville.Louisville Metro has agreed to lend support to a standalone soccer stadium for the team—but only if its reachesan average attendance of 4,500 per game next year, 5,500 in 2016 and 6,500 in 2017. Now, Estopinal and the team’s ownership group is asking Louisville Metro to reduce the attendance threshold for a standalone stadium by 1,000 “We can exist for a couple of years at Slugger Field to prove the concept,” Estopinal said.  “But in 2018 we really need to be in a soccer-specific stadium.”An announcement is scheduled for Wednesday regarding the potential move of the USL Pro franchise to Louisville. The team—to be called Louisville City SC—is supposed to play matches at Slugger Field starting next year.Estopinal said he still expects the team to continue with plans to move to Louisville, despite the issues.But he said “there is always a chance” it won’t happen.A spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer’s office said discussions are ongoing with the soccer team’s ownership and it would be “premature” to make a comment on the probability of the average attendance threshold being changed.Estopinal  said he is working to make sure the Louisville Bats continue to get the support they need to remain a successful sports organization and is hopeful the city can be a prominent multi-sport community.“First we must prove that we can work together as a community,” he said.The soccer club's owners have agreed to allow all proceeds from concession sales during soccer games to go to the Bats.Estopinal said he's still hopeful Wednesday's announcement will be “celebratory.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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