The Louisville Urban League wants athletics to be a part of the West End’s economic future.
Louisvillians were given a peek on Monday night at proposals for Heritage West, the previously proposed site of the West Louisville FoodPort.
One of those proposals — introduced by the Urban League — is for a sports complex. It would include an indoor track and field facility, retail space and restaurants and cafes.
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Sadiqa Reynolds, president of the Louisville Urban League, said the project is about more than just sports.
“You’re talking about people moving in and out of the community,” Reynolds said. “Even more, this is about economic impact. The idea that you would bring this kind of facility into this part of the city and then we would then be able to compete on a regional level.”
Reynolds said the $30 million project would generate revenue from organizations such as the NCAA and the Indianapolis-based USA Track & Field organization.
“So just from a track and field perspective, you’re talking 30,000 to 40,000 visitors to our city,” said Reynolds. “They will have to have hotels, they will eat, they will do all the things people do.”
Approximately 24 million people visit the city annually, according to the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city is also within a day’s drive for about half of the population of the U.S. That distance, Reynolds said, is important for track teams who want to compete and travel by car.
The proposed sports complex is minutes away from the Kentucky International Convention Center, which is being renovated, as well as the new Omni Hotel, both projected to open in 2018.
Besides the potential big money the venue could bring to the city, Reynolds said the elite athletes competing at the facility would provide a positive image for children in West Louisville.
“Our kids need to see some heroes up close, gathered in one location, and this is going to do that,” she said.
The Heritage West site is located at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. The West Louisville FoodPort would’ve occupied its 24 acres, but the plan fell through last August after an anchor tenant backed out.
The development was intended to boost economic activity and bring hundreds of new jobs to West Louisville. Reynolds said after plans fell through, she wanted to come up with something that would help the neighborhood.
“After that FoodPort didn’t happen, I just wanted to think of something that the community could buy-in, that the people could support — people with dollars could support — and that would change the way West Louisville operates and is seen,” she said.
In October 2016, Walmart canceled plans to build a new superstore at 18th and Broadway. The $30 million project was expected to bring 300 new jobs to West Louisville and have an annual payroll of $6 million.
Two months later, some good news finally broke for West Louisville.
In early December, the city received a $30 million federal grant from Housing and Urban Development to revitalize Russell. Good news continued this spring when in April, officials announced plans for a new 62,000-square-foot building at the corner of Broadway and 18th Street.
And less than a week later, Passport Health Plan announced their plans to relocate to the former Walmart site.
Other proposals for Heritage West include a food cooperative and a research park modeled after one in Durham, North Carolina.
The Louisville Urban League’s sports complex proposal would take 18-24 months to build and would open in 2020, Reynolds said.
However, she said the time for athletics to be a part of the West End’s economic future is now.
“This is the time. You know how you just feel like I got this one shot, I feel like this is the one shot, let’s get the momentum behind it,” she said.