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City Pledges To Examine Potential For Pro Soccer Stadium

Despite a successful inaugural season, Louisville’s professional soccer team is yet to net a concrete commitment from city officials to build a stadium.

Days away from its first playoffs series, Louisville City FC players and officials joined about 100 fans at Louisville Slugger Field Thursday evening for a much-anticipated "important announcement" from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

Most fans believed confirmation about a new or permanent stadium was pending. The announcement fell short of their expectations.

Fischer announced that the city will begin exploring the feasibility of constructing a soccer-specific stadium. His pledge matched statements made in August by team president Wayne Estopinal.

Fischer said the city’s Louisville Forward department will work with industry experts in coming months to hash out where a stadium could go, and analyze what kind of investment would be needed.

Team owner Estopinal, a southern Indiana architect, has stressed that his club will need a soccer-specific stadium in the future. The team currently plays home games on the baseball diamond at Slugger Field. The arrangement with the Louisville Bats baseball team has been strained at times.

“The costs of holding games at Slugger Field are exceptionally high,” Estopinal told WFPL in August.

If the team wants to move up to Major League Soccer from the United Soccer League, a 20,000-seat stadium is a necessity, Estopinal said.

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, the chief of Louisville Forward, said all options are on the table regarding potential sites for a stadium. She would not say where the city may be looking.

Estopinal previously said he found four feasible sites in Louisville that had 20 acres available for a stadium. He said several funding options are possible, but declined to discuss them in detail.

Wiederwohl wouldn't speculate on how large an investment the city is willing to make.

“We will be very thoughtful about that, particularly as the public dollar is involved, what is the greatest return on investment,” she said

Wiederwohl is confident, however, that a new stadium would be an “amazing redevelopment opportunity” for the city.

Fischer promised to have more news regarding a soccer stadium by the start of 2016.

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.