The Louisville Urban League will spearhead the development of an indoor-outdoor sports facility. | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

In front of a crowd of well-wishers, Mayor Greg Fischer and Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, Friday signed a development agreement for the 24-acre Heritage West site at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, allowing work to move forward on the construction of a $30 million indoor track and field athletic facility.

Fischer called the agreement between the city, which owns the vacant Heritage West site, and the Urban League, “groundbreaking and historic.”

The indoor sporting facility will seat 4,000 and feature a 200-meter indoor track on a hydraulic lift system, so the building can be used for activities other than track and field during the offseason.

It will have eight lanes for sprints and hurdles, locker rooms, concession areas, and sports training and treatment facilities, as well as space for pole vaulting, long jump, shot put and weight throwing. The center will also be able to accommodate up to nine volleyball courts.

Outside, the development will include a 400-meter track with a multisport infield with seating for about 500, and the Urban League hopes the facility will attract retail businesses, hotels and mixed-use developments, which will also build at Heritage West. Officials hope the development will attract 30,000 to 40,000 people to West Louisville annually during the indoor track season from December through March.

Sadiqa Reynolds

“This is an exciting day. This is an amazing day,” Reynolds said. “It’s about an entire community and what it looks like to realistically, holistically revitalize a community in a way that the people who have been there so long benefit.”

Reynolds listed off name after name after name of people who’ve helped and continue to help the project move forward, including businesswoman and investor Valle Jones, HJI Supply Chain Solutions CEO Alice Houston, and businessman Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman.

“Alice and Junior have walked with me and supported me in this endeavor, and it means something for everybody,” she said. “Would we even be talking about the land if it wasn’t for Stephen Reily and his crew?”

Reily helped spearhead a redevelopment project that ultimately went nowhere but started a conversation about revitalizing the property.

Back in September of last year, Louisville Metro Government announced that Urban League’s sports facility proposal had beat out three others. The various development proposals were made public, and residents were given opportunities to comment on which they liked best; however, the winner ultimately was chosen by a nine-member committee, the membership of which was only released following a ruling from Assistant Attorney General Matt James.

Louisville Metro Council has designated $350,000 for the Urban League’s project, money that had previously been set aside for the failed FoodPort development at the same site.

Metro Council also is slated to vote next week on its budget for next fiscal year, starting on July 1, which includes plans to sell a $10 million, 20-year city bond to help fund construction of the track and field athletic facility. The bond isn’t expected to be sold until fiscal year 2020, which starts on July 1, 2019.

Per the development agreement, the Urban League must have commitments from investors and other funders to cover the remaining $20 million cost before the end of this year.

With just over six months left in the year, Reynolds said: “I’m very confident. We’ll do it.”

She announced at the event that the Urban League has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Development Council, which has financed more than $2.6 billion in social infrastructure through public-private partnerships, to help pull together funding such as New Market Tax Credit for the track and field development.

Mayor Greg Fischer spoke to a crowd at Central High School. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Construction is expected to start in early 2019, and Reynolds said people have already been reaching out about hosting events at the facility. The Urban League has also received inquiries about other potential development at the site, she said.

Several speakers highlighted the importance of the fact that Heritage West, located in a black community, will be developed by a black institution run by a black woman, Reynolds.

Rev. David Snardon said this project will give black and poor people a slice of the pie, something that is critical for improving West Louisville and the lives of those who live there.

“This has to do with our children and leaving a legacy for the future,” Snardon said. “I am very elated and happy to support what is happening with this track proposal, and I can’t wait to see what will happen.”

Reynolds herself spoke about the importance of the project being led by black Louisvillians.

“There is something about this idea of black people owning something, coming up with our own ideas, setting our own course. There is something about that, and this city has to acknowledge the greatness of this project,” she said.

Reynolds later stated: “I wish I had the $30 million to write the check to myself. I don’t know if people understand how humbling it is to know what you need and not be able to afford it. I am tired of that. … I want these babies to understand that we can do this. We can be creative. We can be innovative. We can change our own world, with the right support. If somebody says ‘I see your dream. Let me invest in your dream’ as opposed to ‘This is what I think is best for you,’ that is what this is about.”

The project is not just about sports; it’s about watching people who look like you succeed and bring people with spending money into the neighborhood, Reynolds said, noting that the lady who caters the Urban League’s board meetings will expand her business by running concession at the track and field facility.

“This is bigger than this building. This is about what this building will generate,” she said. “This is about how you change a community, how you invest in a community that helps leave them whole, that helps them be better. … This is about black people being empowered. This is about West Louisville owning something.”

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]