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.
Got to give John Calipari credit for someone in Lexington finally recognizing that University of Kentucky basketball is not quite the attraction in Louisville that Wildcat fans delude themselves into thinking it is.
Mark Story, of the Lexington Herald-Leader with the numbers:
Kentucky hasn’t sold out a (non-U of L) game in Freedom Hall since 2004-’05. Not coincidentally, that was the last time UK faced Indiana in Louisville back when that series was being played on neutral courts with tickets split 50-50 between the schools.
Since that game, the only (non-U of L) contest that UK has played in Freedom Hall that drew more than 15,500 fans came in 2010-11, a matchup with Notre Dame that attracted 17,404.
Otherwise, the UK “home games” in Louisville since 2005-’06 have been against: Iona, Chattanooga, UAB, Appalachian State, North Carolina Asheville and, this past season, Arkansas-Little Rock.
Those games have drawn: 13,794; 11,641; 14,241; 10,173; 15,368; and 14.747.
Those numbers aren’t exactly up to the “gold standard of college basketball.”
Somewhere in the bowels of the old Cardinal Stadium at the Fairgrounds, there’s a brand new blue-lined UK basketball floor hidden away, collecting dust. Meanwhile, many old University of Louisville championship banners are still hanging high in Freedom Hall.
The University of Louisville women’s basketball team will return to Freedom Hall Wednesday, opening game in Women’s Basketball Invitational. Opponent will be named late (very late) Monday night. They are still working on the field, according to the person who answered the WBI phone.
Poll after poll, it seems, seeking to pin a nickname on Kyle Kuric after his amazing performance against Syracuse. Kinda pointless because the kid is already legendary, and will be forever linked with the final Louisville basketball game at Freedom Hall. Besides, the name already has a nice ring to it.
Don’t expect to go out at the last minute and find a decent seat.
Your one chance to see the University of Louisville baseball team in person this week comes Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Jim Patterson Stadium when the Cards meet Indiana University.
Dan McDonnell’s team is 11-0, and ranked 10th by the College Baseball Writers of America. U of L faces 20th-ranked Mississippi in a three-game series at Oxford this weekend.
Believe it or not, a total of 1,007 people were on hand Saturday for a game against Le Moyne that coincided with the final U of L basketball appearance at Freedom Hall.