Louisville City FC has appointed local venture capitalist John Neace as its new chairman to hasten the building of a soccer stadium, the need for which “has become apparent and immediate,” club President Amanda Duffy said Thursday afternoon.
Neace is the founder and chairman of Neace Ventures and has been an owner of the soccer club and board of managers member since its beginnings in June 2014.
The club, in its second season in the third-division United Soccer League, has enjoyed significant athletic success, qualifying for the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The team’s last regular season game is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Slugger Field in Louisville.
The club has drawn an average 7,141 spectators to home games this season, up 5.6 percent from last year. While the figures rank among the league’s highest, club leaders have said the lack of a soccer-specific stadium is hamstringing the club’s economic success, because it has to forgo advertising revenue and incurs costs to turn the baseball field into a soccer pitch.
The lack of a stadium may put in jeopardy the club’s future in the USL and the club owners hopes to eventually elevate LouCity FC into the first professional division, Major League Soccer. The United Soccer League said last year that a “critical part of our strategic growth plan is to have all USL clubs as owners or primary tenants of soccer-specific stadiums by 2020.”
The city of Louisville this year paid for a $75,000 study the feasibility of a soccer specific stadium. Consultants said a 10,000-seat soccer stadium in Louisville could cost $30 million to $50 million. Consultants studied sites including downtown, but the city has declined to provide details to prevent land speculation.
While generally supportive of the club, Mayor Greg Fischer said that “a significant portion” of the stadium funding would have to come from the private sector.
Duffy said on the club’s website today that “the need for a soccer-specific stadium has become apparent and immediate.”
“John’s appointment gives the club a board representative who can focus a significant amount of time on what is and will be a laborious process in identifying the site, funding mechanisms and execution of this project,” Duffy said.
Neace, who could not be reached Thursday afternoon, succeeds Wayne Estopinal, president of TEG Architects, who had been the club’s public face since the early days but was asked this summer by investors to take a smaller role.