Freedom Hall not the same

A return to Freedom Hall should be a good experience, a nostalgic trip down memory lane, with all the great University of Louisville basketball history embodied in the facility.

The occasion was for the Rascal Flatts concert, a birthday gift for Barbara, the country music lover. The first time we were to be there since UofL had taken up a new residence on Main Street. Great show, incredible graphics and sound effects.

Freedom Hall, however, has become a rather dreary place. The ceiling tiles are dirtier than we remembered, and dozens of them are missing altogether. The hand rails are wobbly in many locations, and some of the seats appeared to have been repaired using duct tape.

The overall feel of the place is dirty and musky, as if only the Fair Board makes a minimum investment in terms of housecleaning and maintenance. One always has to wonder about rodent and pest control in such an environment.

Sitting between the old Fairgrounds Stadium and the vacant amusement park, Freedom Hall appears to be the latest victim of lack of care and neglect.

We’re a little surprised the horsey crowd still wants to keep holding championship equestrian events there. And we have to wonder if the unkempt atmosphere may have been a factor in the University of Kentucky basketball program passing on games there.

The state has invested tons of money in the fairgrounds property in terms of exposition space but apparently very little in what was once the crown jewel of college basketball.  The space still has potential for other sports franchises but not in its present condition, which is pretty sad, bordering on abandonment.

All the UofL banners are still hanging in the rafters. But they are no longer in a place of honor.


Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

8 thoughts on “Freedom Hall not the same”

  1. That may be the saddest story I will read all day. I am reminded of that TV show about the world after people, nature takes everything back when we aren’t there maintaining our creations.

  2. you’re just now realizing this?? Freedom Hall was like that since about 1995. It’s just now that we are used to the fantastic YUM center everything else doesn’t compare. Freedom Hall is no different…we’ve just moved on.

  3. The building goes from sparse use to everyday pounding during the Ky State Fair. It is what it is…the second largest arena in the city for events. KFC YUM is the charming, witty and beautiful youngest daughter. Freedom Hall is the older sister…plain, not very interesting but there if you need her.

  4. If we’re being honest here, Yum isn’t really that nice, except the box seats, which are great. Entry/ exit is a nightmare, the sight lines at the top of the arena are just as bad as anywhere else, and for UofL games the entire atmosphere is far too corporate, sanitized & over-produced. But at least we can get pizza now I guess. If they told me we were going to touch up FH & move back in I’d be elated. Bring back that smell of stale caramel popcorn, beautiful sightlines across the entire arena, and fill it with passionate fans who are life-long supporters of the program.

  5. An additional observation: the women’s restrooms are still abysmal. Do they still use FH as a venue for high school commencements? For decades, that was the only place in town large enough to seat the 400+ Baby Boomers and their families and friends. I could almost be ashamed to point that out now to grandkids. I’ll never forget our Baccalaureate Ceremony there, also, and the concession stands were open! But, never mind, thanks for the tickets, Charlie, and I hope you enjoyed Edens Edge, Little Big Town, Eli Young, and Rascal Flatts as much as I did. As always, Go Cards!!!

  6. Yes, Freedom Hall in still in use for commencements including the school that bcs formerly kept straight. Was there in June, back for the fair. Sad to see the place suffering as it has been, but thinking of the revenue streams the Expo Center has lost lately–it is unavoidable. Perhaps Mr. Workman blew the budget on the new horse show digs. No expense spared for the horsey crowd, apparently, if you’ve checked out the North wing. Shame he couldn’t get Ky Kingdom/Six Flags back in operation. Shame he spent about 900K a year more on staffing than the new operator plans to, at YUM. Shame that Cardinal Stadium is decaying around us. Shame that you pay eight bucks to park, then drive around in circles on Ring Road. Not a Workman fan. Hoping for better come December.

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