By Ed Peak
Say it’s not so.
An alarming story in the local newspaper on Wednesday about the cabooses parked at the north end of Cardinal Stadium. They may be gone soon. All 14 of them, those romantic reminders of America’s past.
It may not seem a big loss to some but in reality the cabooses are a huge deal, greatly enhancing the atmosphere surrounding University of Louisville football games. I absolutely love them.
These cabooses host hundreds of boosters and fans before and after games. A local radio station does a pregame show from one of the cabooses. There is always a buzz there on game days. People thoroughly enjoying themselves.
According to the Courier-Journal, Caboose Express pays about $19,000 a year to lease the cars, which are on state land, and in turn rents them out each for about $15,000 per year — or about $210,000 annually. It also provides one caboose to U of L for free, according to contracts attached to the suit.
The UofL Athletic Association has notified the caboose owner that the lease will be terminated. The space is more valuable now than 20 years ago when the cabooses arrived. Apparently U of L wants the cabooses, or the space, for itself.
But Cardinal Stadium and the surrounding areas have many places to park. It is currently used as a party area as many cabooses having full kitchens. Some fans watch Cardinal baseball on top of the cabooses during the NCAA baseball tournament, especially when Jim Patterson Stadium is sold out.
The University of Louisville Athletics Department needs more revenue. Athletic Director Vince Tyra has been forced to squeeze every nickel, dime and penny out of every revenue source. Let the finger-pointing begin.
This goes back to former Athletic Director Tom Jurich and two coaches. Football coach Bobby Petrino who left he Cardinal football program in shambles when he was asked to leave in November and owed $16 million. Rick Pitino and his deny, deny, deny tactics. It wasn’t me. I don’t know anything. Costing Cardinals athletics lost lots of revenue.
That the ULAA would even consider doing away with cabooses may be an indication of deeply that athletic program has been affected by all of the damaging events over the past three years. It’s a mistake, however, to assume that more parking revenue would make up for the loss of the cabooses.
Time for the Athletic Association to go back to Caboose Express and renegotiate the terms of the lease. Those cabooses represent far more potential for profit than any new parking schemes. Their loss would be a major blow to the optics of University of Louisville football.