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Details On Soccer Stadium Study Expected Soon

The findings of a feasibility study related to the potential construction of a soccer stadium in Louisville are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

"Hopefully within the next two weeks," said Jeff Mosley, deputy director of Louisville Forward, the city's economic development agency. Mosley said city officials are currently reviewing a draft form of the findings.

The study is being conducted by analyst firm Convention Sports and Leisure, which entered into an agreement with Louisville Metro government earlier this year to examine at least four potential sites, as well as possible costs, funding sources, economic impact and market demand for a professional soccer stadium in Louisville.

Louisville Metro agreed to pay Convention Sports and Leisure $75,000 to conduct the study, according to a city news release distributed earlier this year.

Mosley in January said the study serves as "the groundwork" that will allow city official to determine the worthiness of constructing a soccer specific stadium.

The study, itself, is not meant to guarantee a stadium will be built, Mosley said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the study following the Louisville City FC soccer club's inaugural year. He praised the team's success for qualifying for the post-season and recording one of the league's highest average attendance rates.

This year, the team is ranked atop the United Soccer League's Eastern Conference with just one loss thus far.

And Wayne Estopinal, the soccer team’s owner, has repeatedly said the team will need its own stadium as interest in the franchise grows. In addition, the United Soccer League requires teams to have their own stadiums, and Louisville City FC would need one by 2020 to continue to be a part of the league.

Estopinal has said playing games at Slugger Field costs too much to be viable moving forward. And if the city is serious about one day being home to a Major League Soccer team, a standalone stadium is a necessity, he said.

The analysts were to assess how much support could be generated by the existing fanbase and business community for a new 8,000 to 10,000-seat stadium, as well as a 20,000-seat stadium, according to the initial contract. They were to use data from comparable stadiums across the country as benchmarks for what could lead to a successful stadium endeavor, per the contract.

Some comparable stadiums include Atlanta Silverback Park (Atlanta Silverbacks), Sahlen’s Stadium (Rochester Rhinos) and Highmark Stadium (Pittsburgh Riverhounds), according to the contract.

The site analysis is expected to examine each site’s acreage, accessibility, parking, residential impact and costs associated with land acquisition, the contract says.

Speculation has swirled over where a venue could be built. The Fischer administration hasn’t leaked any details.

Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson, a Democrat from District 21, is calling for the stadium to be constructed at Champions Park on River Road, east of downtown. Johnson has filed a resolution in a council committee, though it's yet to draw discussion in committee meetings.

Bill Weyland, a Louisville developer known for revamping downtown fixtures such as the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, the Henry Clay, and Whiskey Row Lofts, said last year that city leaders shouldconsider locating a new pro soccer stadium west of Ninth Street.

“I think it’s very critical for us to have a magnet in the West End,” Weyland said. “We have to create reasons for a much more dynamic attraction that draws people to the west.”

A recent report from American Public Media’s Marketplace showed the benefits of a sports arena are largely a product of the development’s details. Arenas alone don’t equal jobs and new businesses, Andrew Zimbalist, a economics professor at Smith College, told Marketplace.

Mark Rosentraub, sports management professor at the University of Michigan, has said arenas or stadiums must be part of a larger redevelopment plan if they want to bring money into a city. And British author Alex Flynn has noted that an English Premier League soccer team provides nearly the same economic impact as a supermarket.

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.