Louisville’s Metro Council is expected to vote Thursday on a measure that would kick off a process to build a major league soccer stadium in Butchertown.
The gist of the deal is this: The measure would allow the city to issue $30 million in bonds to buy about 35 acres of land in Butchertown, plus cleanup the land and make infrastructure improvements. Louisville City FC’s investors have committed to build a $45 million stadium on part of that land, and leverage private investment on the remaining parcels, including restaurants, retail and hotels.
Mayor Greg Fischer is touting the effort as a good deal for taxpayers. His plan calls for the city to get all of its money back — almost half from the team directly, and the rest from new tax revenue from the property. But others have questioned whether the investment will pan out, or whether Louisville really needs to pony up any money at all.
The debate has dominated conversation in the city during the past month. And if the more than 40 people who participated in an admittedly unscientific survey on this website were voting on the bond measure at Thursday’s Metro Council meeting, it would pass. But by a pretty thin margin.
Mary Hunt was one of the many people who responded to our call out, who we then followed up with on the phone:
That was the argument many people had: right now, this land in Butchertown is empty. Any development would be an improvement, and this seems to be a way that the city could invest a little bit to leverage a lot more in private investments. Here’s Gary McClellan:
But not everyone is convinced it makes sense for the city to sink $30 million in bonds — plus interest — in the project, even if it results in the expected $200 million in private investment. Theresa Camoriano was skeptical:
A few other people — including Andy Blieden, a developer heavily invested in Butchertown — referenced Louisville’s stated intention of using the stadium to entice a Major League Soccer franchise:
Of course, if Louisville helps build the stadium, that’s no guarantee the city will land an MLS franchise. Having a dedicated soccer stadium is one of the basic qualifications for a bid, but there are other cities that experts say are better situated to land a team — cities like Nashville.
One common argument against the project was that there are a lot of other things Louisville could spend $30 million on, specifically projects in areas of West Louisville that really need economic development.
Karen O’Hara said the project may have merit, but it might not be the right fit for public investment:
Another common theme was time. Many said it seems like the decision is being rushed, and lawmakers should take more time to examine it. The vote on the bonding measure has already been delayed two weeks to tonight, and the city says it has a deadline of November 10 to exercise its option on the five parcels of land included in the deal.
Disclosure: Louisville City FC is privately owned by 47 investors. Two of those, Gill Holland and José Donis, are Louisville Public Media board members.