Louisville’s professional soccer club has signed a broadcasting deal that will bring all 32 games to television and provide the club with another revenue stream.
WDRB will show four Louisville City FC matches, including the March 25 season opener against Saint Louis FC. WMYO will show eight games, and WBNA will carry the rest.
The second-division United Soccer League club declined to disclose terms of the deal but a spokesman said the club is looking for TV and radio sponsors. The club previously had announced a deal with iHeartMedia to air games on radio, primarily on 840 WHAS.
A USL official had told Insider in January that the league’s recent promotion to Division II, one below Major League Soccer, would provide clubs with greater broadcasting and sponsorship opportunities.
Generating more revenue is critical for the clubs, especially for those, like LouCity, that do not own their own stadiums. The Louisville club achieved success on and off the field in its first two years, reaching the conference finals — essentially the league championship semifinals — and ranking among the top two or three teams in attendance, drawing an average of more than 7,200 last season.
Nonetheless, LouCity FC lost money its first two seasons — though the loss shrank last year — and club leaders have said that generating a profit may be difficult without its own stadium. LouCity plays its home games at Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats. That means the soccer club cannot generate dollars from stadium naming rights or concessions and incurs conversion and rent costs to play in the baseball stadium.
Club leaders have identified the need for a soccer-specific stadium as their primary goal this year. The club hopes to build a $25 million venue in Louisville, but hasn’t ruled out moving to Southern Indiana, depending on how the finances work out.
Chairman John Neace has said that the local owners plan to raise millions of private dollars toward construction, but likely will need some public support to make the stadium a reality. City officials have said that the bulk of the finances will have to come from the private sector, but at least some were open to helping LouCity make the stadium a reality.
The club is working with global architecture firm HOK for stadium design.
Club spokesman Jonathan Lintner told Insider via email this week that “the owners continue to meet with the city weekly, and progress is being made.”
LouCity FC is still working toward securing its preferred stadium site, in downtown Louisville, he said. City and club leaders have declined to reveal the location to prevent land speculation.
Tom Farmer, president of the Louisville Coopers, a LouCity FC fan club, said supporters are “chomping at the bit for more information on the stadium.
“What we do know is that it’s guaranteed to be in Louisville,” he told Insider via email. “We’re hoping for an announcement on location sometime in the next few months. It’s been expressed that the supporters’ groups would play some role, even if minor, in the development of the stadium, and we’re very excited about that opportunity.”
Lintner said that club leaders discussed internally how many games they would want to show on TV to avoid reducing home game attendance, but decided that showing all games would generate more interest in the team and give established fans a more reliable way to watch matches beyond online streaming.
In addition, he said, the league’s USL Productions venture has standardized quality across the board, which gave the club the confidence that “when we go on the road everywhere that the standards will be as high there as they are at home.”
WBNA GM Tom Fawbush said in a press release that LouCity FC “is growing, very exciting to watch, has a wonderful fan base and is making a very positive impact on our city.”
Farmer said he was excited about the deal because it would expose the club to a larger audience.
“When people see the flag waving, the smoke popping and our Groove Machine drum corps, we think it will be a magnet that attracts additional fans,” Farmer told Insider via email.
Off-season roster moves, he said, have raised supporters’ hopes for a return to the conference finals — despite a preseason loss on Wednesday against Lipscomb University, in a match in which the pro club dominated most of the statistics.
The club has taken other steps to engage fans and attract more people to home games:
- College students can buy a $50 season ticket, or $130 off the regular price. Lintner said the club had sold “a couple hundred” and continues to see steady demand.
- A mobile app, in partnership with SuperFanPro, keeps fans up to date and rewards loyal supporters.
- A new community relations coordinator is spearheading outreach efforts, such as player appearances, partnerships and a “street team” of students to help the club have a presence at local events.
- Ticket sales on Groupon.
The club also will play 32 regular season matches this year, up from 30 last year, as the USL has expanded to 30 teams, up one from last year. That also means LouCity will play 16 home games this year, one more than last year.
The club won’t release details about its financials, so it’s unclear whether an additional game will help or hurt its finances. Lintner told Insider that player contracts are confidential, per league rules, but the contracts “include performance-based bonuses/incentives, and it benefits them to be on the field.”
For the first game, which kicks off at 2 p.m. March 25, local fan clubs will begin tailgating at 10 a.m. in the southwest corner of the parking lot west of Slugger.
Given the event will begin around brunch time, Farmer said, the theme will be omelets, and he encouraged visitors to bring their favorite ingredients.
Fans will begin marching into the stadium around 1 p.m.
Farmer said the St. Louis supporters’ group, the St. Louligans, “is bringing three busloads of fans, so we really want everyone to come out to Slugger and pack it with LouCity fans.”