Churchill Downs Gets A Taste of its Own Medicine

Cheers for Judge Denise Clayton who overturned a provision in a Metro Louisville ordinance exempting Churchill Downs from the smoking ban. Serves Churchill Downs right for throwing the bar owners under the bus.

Churchill Downs management declined invitations to join the Metro Louisville Hospitality Coalition in fighting the ban, as if it were beneath them to work with the local hospitality industry. Big mistake. The locals repaid them with the lawsuit that removed the exemption.

This is the same Louisville business that has said it’s not that interested in hosting the Breeders Cup, an event that brings millions of dollars to the community.

Churchill Downs management knows a smoking ban will hurt its business. If they were smart, they would use their considerable clout to work with the bar owners and the Metro Council to revise the ordinance to allow smoking in age-restricted businesses where only patrons 21-years-old and over are allowed.

The clout deployed by Churchill Downs the first time must have been considerable to force Council members like Tom Owen, Tina Ward-Pugh and Ellen Call to argue that a smoking ban would cause economic damage to Churchill Downs but not other local businesses. Tom Owen was especially angry that the race track was threatened with a smoking ban.

Local bars and taverns are still reeling from the ban that took effect in July. Dan Heck, owner of the Siedenfieden Cafe, says he has lost 26% of his business since the ban took effect. John Dant, proprietor at The Back Door, says he didn’t take a paycheck in October, putting his money back in the business. Cres Bride, owner of R Place and Joe’s Older Than Dirt, very much fears the colder months when patrons can’t use his outdoor seating. They’re hurting bad, folks.

Bad Trip To Morgantown in 2005

Memories of the first Big East football game between Louisville and West Virginia two years ago:

— Minutes before getting into the car to drive to West Virginia, learning that the Holiday Inn in Clarksburg had been flooded. Knowing that it was a bad omen

–Catching a bus ride to the stadium with a group of U of L fans from a hotel in Fairmont. They hadn’t slept the night before because another bus had broken down.

— The disastrous onside kick off in the third quarter that went to West Virginia. Sinking feeling, knowing that momentum had unalterably turned.

— The sound of fire trucks, one after another and another, after the three-overtime loss.

— Arriving back at the the bus with beer-soaked shoes, courtesy of a couple of Mountaineer fans.

— Shock at learning the bus would go back to Louisville on a route that didn’t include our hotel 40 miles away. We were on our own.

Voters As Sheep?

Much manipulation went for naught as a proposed new library tax went down, leading some observers to conclude that they had outsmarted themselves. The margin of defeat exposed them as rank amateurs who believed the public could be steered like sheep to vote yes at the polls.

  • Anyone close to being a celebrity in Louisville was carted out for the campaign. TV spots from coaches and athletes. Letters to the Editor from business leaders and educators. You know, the kind of people you would never bump into at the local library branch. Maybe some actual library users would have been effective.
  • The three-part question on the actual ballot was obviously intended to delude individuals. The organizers clearly underestimated the intelligence of local voters.
  • For some strange reason, library supporters refused to appear on local talk shows to discuss the proposed funding. They didn’t want to appear giving the opponents any credibility? They lost some by refusing any debate.

Kept expecting the Courier-Journal to issue the results of a Bluegrass Poll with preliminary indications on how voters were leaning. The story never came, making one suspect that the editors and library supporters knew the proposal was in deep trouble from the beginning.

Stadium Expansion Wheels Are Turning

Vision. Imagination. Confidence.

These are unquestioned characteristics of members of the Papa John’s Stadium Expansion Committee, each successful in many separate endeavors. They want the University of Louisville athletic program to think big, exceed expectations. They are not dreamers, they are realists. When they decide to do something, they expect it to happen.

The committee includes many of the same folks behind the transformation occurring in downtown Louisville. Name it, and one or more individuals on this committee has been involved — the new U of L Basketball Arena, Museum Plaza, Fourth Street Live , all the new condominiums, offices and construction on Main Street, the new hotels, the Louisville Bats and Slugger Field. Too numerous to list all of them.

So it was significant when the committee voted unanimously in support of Tom Jurich’s recommendation to approve the stadium design, which will raise stadium seating capacity to 63,000. Now comes the next step, putting their personal and corporate clout and energies behind the project. They know you can’t be deterred by temporary setbacks, that you have to look beyond those, and do what is necessary to ensure that success is inevitable.

The project still needs the approval of U of L Athletic Committee and the U of L Board of Trustees, not to mention the go-ahead of the Kentucky General Assembly. It’s not a freight train yet, but the wheels are turning.

A salute to committee members: Larry Benz, Jonathan Blue, Mike Brown, Kevin Covan, Mike Curtain, Larry Hayes, Bob Koetter, Jr., Chris Sternberg, Jim Patterson II, Bruce Perkins, Steve Poe, Sam Rechter, Dan Ulmer and Will Wolford. They deserve the red carpet treatment when the expanded stadium becomes a reality in 2010.

Monday Morning Memos

To Lee Corso: Predict that West Virginia will win the football game. Please. (Nobody can remember the last time he correctly predicted a Louisville game.)

To fans going to theaters to see the game: Take your own candy and popcorn. Movie concessions are more expensive than Papa John’s. (There’s a Walgreen’s directly across from Stonybrook.)

To Steve Kragthorpe:
Game plan should include Bilal Powell early and often in the first half. (No late game cameos.)

To Charlie Stubbs: Get the plays into Brian Brohm faster. Send Bilal Powell in with the plays. (He’s a good ball carrier, too.)

To the U of L Band Director: Watch how the Mountaineer band responds to game situations, and how the crowd feeds off the band. (They don’t have a cheerleader doing a monologue before the game either.)

To the guy who plays the boogie videos: They don’t play boogie music at Morgantown when the home team is behind. Not in good taste. (You’ll never live that one down.)