Louisville building the ‘Taj Mahal’ of college soccer
College soccer still has a steep hill to climb to being taken seriously by avid soccer fans in this country who detest the college game’s stopping clocks, frequent substitutions and short season, but the stunning new facility moving from artist rendering dream to shovel-in-the-ground reality at the University of Louisville should be seen as a step in the right direction.
A soccer-specific facility that’s already earned the nickname “Taj Mahal” in local media is coming to the Kentucky city in the fall of 2014 and based on the artist renderings it’s an absolute beauty.
Boasting a planned capacity of 5,300 and resembling an actual stadium (as opposed to the field with a couple sets of bleachers of so many college programs) the $17.5 million facility will be not only the rival of every other college program in the country when it opens in fall 2014 but will make professional teams like the Harrisburg City Islanders swoon.
The animated artist renderings, set to the tune of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” were released back in August but it almost didn’t seem plausible that a university would be committing so much to a “non-revenue sport” until I read the news today of an eye doctor’s $5 million donation to the project. A project wouldn’t be attracting that kind of capital – all but $3 million has been raised – if it wasn’t really happening.
Based on their media comments, the good doctor, Dr. Mark Lynn and his wife, Cindy, don’t sound like avid soccer fans as much as hardcore Cardinals backers who have bought into the latest in the university’s ambitious and possibly unprecedented efforts to have the finest collection of athletic facilities in the nation.
Planned for the university’s sprawling complex of athletic fields off I-65 that includes the massive Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and facilities for baseball, softball and other “non-revenue” sports, the stadium will literally be a showpiece for soccer visible from the heavily traveled interstate. One media report threw out the number 77 million impressions a year to give an idea of how on display it will be.
The opening of the stadium will also coincide with the school joining the Atlantic Coast Conference so soccer powerhouse University of North Carolina will be among the first visitors to see how well the sound of the Louligans supporters group’s voices travel in the new environs.
The city of Louisville, ranked 42nd largest in the country for its metro area, has only the PDL club River City Rovers calling its sports-mad city home so a showpiece like this should help raise the team’s profile, enlist more Louligans to the cause and add to the pipeline of talent men’s coach Ken Lolla has drawn – Andrew Farrell, Austin Berry and Nick DeLeon to name a few – with the ho-hum digs they currently call home.
Now if they could just get the NCAA to adopt the FIFA rule book, maybe a revolution really would be brewing in Derby City.