A year ago University of Louisville fans were eagerly anticipating the opening of a brand new basketball arena with 22,000 seats and an expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to a seating capacity of more than 55,000.
Much of the fun was watching the progress of construction on the project, with videos and photo shows attracting hundreds of viewers on Internet sites. The anticipation sometimes is as exciting as the actual achievements.
Mission accomplished in both instances. In the midst of a sour economy, exceeding expectations in every respect.
The KFC Yum! Center attracted 21,832 fans per game for men’s basketball games and 10,859 for women’s competition. It is, in fact, the envy of college basketball programs, prompting rumblings at one nearby university to replace their facility.
Papa John’s, with a new upper deck, a new terrace, state-of-the art video scoreboards, and enhanced graphics throughout the stadium, attracted 50,648 fans per game. The modern facility and enhanced fan support strongly positions U of L football for the future, given the changing landscape of conference realignments.
Many of us could only dream of such facilities for decades. Hard to believe they have happened. Really. We have to wonder what comes next. More facilities? Further expansion? Probably not needed for quite a while, except in the case of soccer, and that’s coming.
Now that U of L has facilities that exceed many of the more traditional programs, our dreams and expectations should naturally shift to accomplishments in the arena and on the playing field. The facilities are, after all, just brick and mortar.
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Gary Friedman, an associate AD at U of L, will be the new athletic director at Illinois State University. He’ll be formally announced at a news conference Thursday by President Al Bowman. Friedman replaces Sheahon Zenger, who left ISU in December AD at Kansas.