Thursday, June 7, 2007

118. Cardinal Baseball

Louisville is known as a college sports town and has been for some time. More than a few people suggested that J. Bruce Miller, Dan Johnson, Steve Magre, and others were tilting at windmills when they suggested the best way to pay for a new downtown arena was to lure an NBA team to town, thereby ensuring some national TV revenue, along with the accompanying occupational taxes paid from the players and others whose jobs would be performed here in Louisville-Jefferson County Metro. They said professinal sports would never take hold here because of our allegiances to U of L, UK, Notre Dame, IU, and others.

As a supporter of the concept of building an arena and building it downtown, and as someone who has been watching budgets come and go in the old City of Louisville as well as the Mayor's new hybrid creation of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro (what former County Commissioner Darryl T. Owens called at the time the Jerry Abramson Full Employment Act), I knew that paying for such a needed entity would be troublesome and the NBA idea seemed a logical mean to meet that end. Despite all the promises made by Jim Host (a foreigner to Louisville), as well as His Honor and his henchmen, including those housed in the editorial offices at 6th and Broadway, Miller's projection that outisde revenues were the keys to financial success has been proven. Just ask 10th District Councilman Jim King, the CPA turned politician, who has been finetuning the arena financing package, finding those shortcomings either unfounded or blatantly ignored by Host and his host of sock-puppet supporters. King's job has been not only to find the problems, but to also suggest solutions, and he has been fairly successful at both - moreso than the administration and the newspaper, whose only role has been to thwart the efforts of Miller and Johnson et al, and to promote (successfully) the relocation of the arena site to appease an industrial giant, the Germany-based E-ON, the owner of LG&E and its plant at 2nd Street and River Road, which will be moved from one side of the street to the other, about 30 yards, and rebuilt at government expense (with a price tag around $63,000,000.00 more or less), a process which is already undereay as evidenced by the closure of the western 1/2 of 3rd Street between Main Street and River Road. But, in the end, Louisville will have an arena and it will be built downtown, and hopefully it will attract some big-time basketball games, say perhaps NCAA Regionals, to the city.

On a somewhat related note, one of the city's hometown colleges, the University of Louisville, has recently built another arena which is attracting an NCAA Regional, actually a Super Regional, to town this weekend. A Super-Regional in Baseball is akin to the Sweet 16 in Basketball. The Jim Patterson Stadium serves as the home field for the University of Louisville Baseball team, and has since 2005. Patterson replaced the old Parkway Field, located along Eastern Parkway at the L&N Railroad, which served the same purpose - in two different configurations, since its construction in 1923. (A note here - Parkway Field was home to the old Louisville Colonels professional baseball team, and was built for them after their old home at Eclipse Park burned in 1922. The Colonels played there until 1956 when they moved to the Fairgrounds. In additional to the college's baseball team, Parkway Field had also served as a home football field in the 1950s. Louisville Baseball continued off-and-on while also playing at Derby City Field and the old Cardinals Stadium before moving to Patterson in 2005). The new field's construction and finances were helped along with a generous donation from Jim Patterson, a Louisville entrepreneur and civic leader. (I'll add here Patterson is among those who helped make the decision for the new arena downtown to be built on the LG&E site).

Patterson's story is one of those rags-to-riches story, coming from the poor side of Louisville, spending time in college at U of L on a baseball scholarship, giving service to the country in the Air Force, and then making a career as a salesman. He joined the Jerry's Restaurants franchise and later helped create and run (as President and CEO) the Long John Silver's Fish Restaurants - apropos for a Catholic kid who probably ate fish every Friday at school, along with Macaroni and Cheese - at least that's what I always had, even though I went to a public school. Patterson's return gift was the stadium which bears his name, built on a brownfields site (the old American Air Filter plant) at what is now intersection of Central Avenue and 2nd Street, an intersection which wasn't there ten years ago. Patterson has also been a major contributor to Catholic schools in Louisville, including Bellarmine University on Newburg Road.

But, I digress.

This weekend, starting tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 pm, Jim Patterson Stadium will be hosting an NCAA Basketball Super-Regional Tournament pitting Oklahoma State against the hometown favorites, the University of Louisville. It is a best two-out-of-three series, with the second game Saturday at Noon, and if needed, a Sunday game at 4. All the games are being telecast on some version of ESPN. Louisville enters the tournament with a 44-21 record, having won their first-ever Regional on Thursday, defeating Missouri 15-5. Now, to be honest, I couldn't name one player on the team. Nonetheless, I am a baseball fan of many years and it is good publicity for the hometown when the local boys do good. I plan on being at Saturday's game, and maybe Sunday's as well, pulling for the Cardinals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You neglect to mention that Patterson contributed $10,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

He's part of the problem.

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Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.