All signals are go for the downtown basketball arena. The financing is in place. Chairman Jim Host is currently affixing his signature to the more than 400 documents that have to be signed.

Construction can begin as soon as the LG&E remains are removed from the site, according to a Courier-Journal report.

The big day was a long time coming for UofL fans, who began calling for a new arena during a celebration at Freedom Hall in 1980, following the Cards’ 59-54 win over UCLA in the championship game of the NCAA basketball tournament. Fans had to settle then for a renovation of the Fairgrounds facility, compliments of John Y. Brown, Jr. Nice, but not what fans had in mind.

The UofL faithful would have to bide their time through several Kentucky governors, hoping that an arena would become politically feasible. It wouldn’t happen until 2005 when Ernie Fletcher designated $75 million for the project.

Host, who was Fletcher’s director of economic development, was the man picked to make it happen – probably one of the only good decisions Ernie made during his administration. And Host delivered despite several monumental setbacks, including almost unprecedented economic turmoil in the nation’s financial markets.

Host said that the agreement of the Louisville-based investment firm of Hilliard Lyons to buy all the taxable bonds, including the uninsured bonds, helped seal the deal. He added that all the taxable bonds should be paid off in five years, saving tens of millions of dollars.

The arena should be ready for action in November 2010, just as Rick Pitino is harvesting some of his best recruiting classes.

Thanks Hilliard Lyons for stepping up to buy the taxable bonds.

Host had every reason for giving up on this project months ago. No quitter, Jim Host. Tackled the mountain, making the financing happen.

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By Charlie Springer

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

3 thoughts on “Build That Downtown Louisville Arena”
  1. Did you all see the terms of the financing deal- a FIXED rate at 6.45% !!

    Guys that understand finance were falling out of their seats in astonishment this morn , when they saw that in the C-J. A fixed rate in this market at that %? Almost unreal…

    I talked to a few partners at Greenebaum this morning and they said Hilliard’s commitment made the underwiting syndicate finally happen

  2. The transaction is normal in a brokerage’s activities. HL is going to mark the bonds up and tell their salespeople to sell them to their customers. MORE IMPORTANTLY, risk and reward are forever handcuffed together. Haven’t we learned this over the last year? The VERY HIGH yield offered by the bonds simply and absolutely means: The bonds are high risk bonds.

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