Earlier this summer, Major League Soccer’s Orlando City ended its player affiliation with Louisville City FC, this city’s first-season United Soccer League team. And while the local team has been a popular addition to Louisville’s sports landscape, rumors surfaced recently that another city was trying to lure the team away.
Following a meeting with Mayor Greg Fischer on Monday, Louisville City FC Chairman Wayne Estopinal told Insider Louisville the team isn’t going anywhere, and that in fact, his confirmation that he had been approached by another city was blown out of proportion.
“I was asked by a reporter if other cities have contacted us about moving the team there, and I simply said, ‘As a matter of fact, they have,’” Estopinal said during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “A particular city has contacted us and has admired what we’re doing, and I merely answered the question. I was trying to be transparent and trying to be honest with people. If (the media) want to interpret it in different ways, I can’t do whole lot about that.”
According to Estopinal, Monday’s meeting between Louisville City FC representatives and Mayor Fischer “went great.”
He added that Louisville City FC provided an overview of the team’s competitiveness in the USL, a report on the ownership and management of the team (Orlando City still is a part owner, despite the affiliation split), and the group also discussed the team’s sub-lease of Slugger Field, where the Louisville Bats play.
“We know that continues to be a real issue for our long-term success and sustainability,” Estopinal said. “Hopefully that will get some attention in the coming weeks.”
He said the group also discussed multiple potential sites for a 9,000-seat dedicated soccer stadium that could expand to 20,000 seats if the team should join Major League Soccer in the future. To make such a stadium viable, Estopinal said, it will need a top-notch youth academy to help generate revenue versus existing on ticket sales and a share of concessions.
Four different possible sites were discussed, he said, although the focus is currently on one. He declined to disclose the location, and didn’t comment on whether the team specifically seeks city funding other than to say that “all (possibilities) would be explored. There’s no firm direction on any of it.”
In addition, the group discussed an economic impact study that has been assembled detailing direct benefits of USL and MLS teams.
“It was a very positive meeting,” Estopinal said. “Everybody is truthfully very much on same page. The leave-behind was that everybody in that meeting was incredibly focused on all the positive we’ve been able to accomplish here. Without all the success we’ve already had, we wouldn’t be having these discussions we’re having now.”
Estopinal said that, not including this past Saturday’s home match, Louisville City FC has averaged just under 6,500 in paid attendance per home game this season.
“I think that’s a real strong statement,” he said. “I thought if we were to have 4,500 or so we’d be in pretty good shape.”
The goal is to push that average number up to 10,000 next season, he said.
This evening at Slugger Field, Louisville City FC will host its former MLS affiliate Orlando City at 7:30 p.m.