Even though it’s plagued by financial woes, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer remains steadfast that the KFC Yum Center is a good deal for the city.
Two credit rating agencies have recently lowered the facility’s bonds despite lobbying efforts by the Arena Authority to upgrade the rating.
In the last budget, the city increased its contribution to pay off the arena debt from $6.5 million to $9.8 million a year.
That has at least one city lawmaker—Councilman Dan Johnson—calling for a review of the Yum Center’s operations and its lease agreement with the University of Louisville.
In a one-on-one interview with WFPL, Fischer acknowledged taxpayers have a right to be concerned about the arena’s finances. But he argues the Yum Center has helped revitalize downtown and changes by the council are expected to bring in some relief.
“It has really helped with the renaissance in downtown Louisville,” he says. “The nation’s focused on the Yum Center and the city of Louisville in terms of the metropolitan area with the focus of bringing people downtown as well. There’s a lot of action there. And you can see all of the hotels that being constructed in downtown right now with four in the last three months. So no, overall, it’s been a great thing for the city.”
The council amended to the tax increment financing district surrounding the arena, and it’s projected to bring in more revenue as a result. As the TIF district has fallen below expected results that has put a heavier burden on Louisville taxpayers to cover more of the costs.
Johnson and others have have suggested the facility needs more attractions—namely an NBA franchise—to help fill the gap. Earlier this month, the Yum Center saw its “busiest and most profitable” stretch as it tries to overcome a reported $52,000 operating loss.
“The TIF center around there is going to continue to increase and hopefully that will give some relief in the future. But there’s no question that it hadn’t worked out the way the original forecast was, most of them don’t work out,” says Fischer. “We inherited that, we’re living with it. Fortunately, our budget from the city standpoint is healthy right now, we’ve done a good job of putting that in position so we’ll be fine.”