Johnny U takes a sabbatical, moves to secure location

Johnny U has left his perch at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Johnny Unitas no longer stands guard over the North end zone at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. In his absence is a stub of the concrete statue honoring the former University of Louisville great.

The statue has been moved and won’t be back until the expansion is complete in 2018.

That was the word from JCPS Stadium Manager Michael Ortman who is putting a padlock on Gate 9 a couple of minutes after the observer leaves the stadium on Tuesday morning.

“Where’s Johnny U?” the observer asks.

“I can’t say,” says Ortman. “The statue has been moved to another location where it will be safe and secure.”

“What about the bricks with the donors’ names on them?”

Stadium Manager Michael Ortman.

“They have been palletized,” replies Ortman. “and they are in safekeeping as well.”

“You sure you can’t tell us where Johnny U is being stored?”

“No way,” says Ortman, wondering who the character is asking all the questions. “The statue is in a safe location and I’m not saying anything about the whereabouts.”

As Vice President Tom Jurich promised, the stadium expansion began two days after the final game of the 2016 season. Work is clearly visible in both the north end zone and north of the Howard Schnellenberger football complex. Lots of preparation work for new utilities is under way in both areas. 

The shell of the new end zone structure is expected to be in place during the 2017 football season, along with framework of construction of the new football training facility. 

As for when and where Johnny U will be stationed when he returns , Ortman is equally mum.

“We’ll see,” he says.

New Louisville stadium manager oversees Papa John’s upgrades

Michael Ortman, the new Stadium Manager at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, says several changes have been made at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to enhance the fan experience during the University of Louisville football team’s first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Ortman, who previously was Director of Operations for the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, for 17 years, succeeded K. C. Scull who retired during the past year after about 15 years in that post. Ortman oversaw all aspects of the Soldier Field operations, including the stadium, the 98 acres of park land, and parking structures. He was also deeply involved in the multi-million-dollar expansion of Soldier Field.

Michael Ortman
Michael Ortman

Among his first duties at PJCS was to complete the installation of a new state-of-art sound system, which he says will rival any sound system found in the National Football League. The sound system required a multi-phase process over two seasons, which he hopes will be completed in time for the opening game against the Miami Hurricanes.

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