Tuesday May 29, 2007
Louisville Champions Park to honor area sports greats
Mayor Jerry Abramson was joined today by local athletes as he detailed plans for Louisville Champions Park, a 166-acre linear park that will be the centerpiece of an expanding 400-acre sports and recreation corridor along River Road.
Abramson said the complex would become “a hub for local athletic activities as well as an economic-development tool” to attract to Louisville national and regional sports tournaments and events. With the mayor’s upcoming budget, and funds already allocated through the current budget, $6 million will be invested in the next year to begin development along the corridor.
“Starting at downtown’s Waterfront Park and heading east on River Road to Indian Hills Trail, we have more green space than Cherokee Park,” Abramson said. “We are capitalizing on this by looking at these assets as one unique corridor.”
When complete in three to five years, the new park will include 22 game-quality multi-purpose sports fields and other park amenities such as basketball courts, playground and spray park, a pond and wetlands, and walking/running paths that include connections to the City of Parks 100-mile loop trail. The mayor said the park could include features to pay tribute Louisville’s many sports icons.
To create the new park, the city will utilize existing public property adjacent to the 63 acres made available when the private River Road Country Club closed after entering bankruptcy and defaulting on its lease payments to Metro Government, which owns the property.
The new Louisville Champions Park will stretch along the south side of River Road from Zorn Ave. to Frankfort Ave., including the former country club property, the 55-acre Louisville Soccer Park at Edith Ave., 27 acres across River Road from Eva Bandman Park, and 21 acres at the site of the former landfill at Frankfort Ave. and River Road.
Corridor will be sports draw
Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park, Caperton Swamp Park, Eva Bandman Park and Twin Park, as well as the popular River Road cycling route will combine with the new Louisville Champions Park to comprise the 400-acre River Road Recreation Corridor.
Playing fields will be designed to be flexible and arranged to accommodate a variety of sports, such as soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. The corridor will have a total of 34 game-quality multi-purpose sports fields available for large regional and national tournaments.
The Greater Louisville Sports Commission, which works to attract sporting events to Louisville, was involved in the planning process for the park.
“The new Louisville Champions Park is something not only the Greater Louisville Sports Commission is going to be proud of, but also the citizens and youth of Louisville as well,” said Diane McGraw, the commission’s executive director. “This facility will add to the charm of historic River Road and, for us, become a major asset to attract new and exciting events for participants and spectators.”
The Sports Commission already has secured two elite-level events for the park, the 2007 U.S. Footy National Championships (Australian rules football) and the U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross, a fast-growing sport that is a hybrid of off-road biking and cross-country racing.
While the national cyclocross event this year will use an existing course set up on the former country club site, the new Louisville Champions Park ultimately will include a championship-caliber course dedicated to cyclocross. Metro Parks officials are working with local cyclocross promoters for the fundraising and development for that portion of the park.
The plans for the corridor were developed after Metro Parks conducted an extensive analysis of the existing public recreational facilities and amenities in the surrounding area to determine needs and opportunities. Metro Parks hosted a public forum to gather community input, and held several follow-up meetings with soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, running, cycling and other area sports groups.
Dog run included in park; proposals sought to develop former clubhouse
The city will issue a request for proposals for private entities to redevelop the portion of the former country club that includes the closed clubhouse, pool, tennis courts and a Louisville Water Company maintenance building. The mayor said the RFP would seek development that would “compliment the sports and recreation corridor we’re building and create a feature that can become an added amenity for citizens and visitors,” potentially similar to the Joe’s Crab Shack and Tumbleweed restaurants incorporated into Waterfront Park.
A three-acre fenced dog run also is included in plans for Louisville Champions Park. It will be a fenced facility for dogs to run off-leash, similar to the one Abramson recently announced would be built at Cherokee Park, and one currently under construction at Charlie Vettiner Park.
Upcoming work includes field and bike route improvements, River Road widening
The mayor’s budget will recommend spending $5.6 million to begin the development along the River Road recreational corridor, in addition to $450,000 already allocated in the current-year budget. It includes:
- $220,000 – improvements to existing sports fields in corridor
- $350,000 – for design work and construction documents for Louisville Champions Park
- $1.25 million – for planning and design of enhanced bicycle routes along River Road east from Zorn Ave. to U.S. 42
- $2.1 million – to replace one-lane bridge at Harrods Creek to make more accessible to motorists and cyclists
- $2.2 million – for design work for widening of River Road from Beargrass Creek east to Zorn Ave., funded through state transportation dollars; will precede Louisville Champions Park final design as River Road widening will have impact on park property
Louisville Champions Park
- 166 acres
- 22 game-quality multi-purpose sports fields
- 5 practice fields
- Walking/running paths, including connections to City of Parks 100-mile loop trail
- Cross-country course
- Cyclocross course (What is Cyclocross?)
- Basketball courts
- 3-acre dog run
- Splash park
- Recreational lawn
- Picnic shelter
- Ponds and wetlands
- 3 restroom facilities
- Parking facilities
- $5 million projected cost
- Built over 3-5 years
- 63 acres from the former River Road Country Club at Zorn Ave. and River Rd.
- 55 acres at the existing Louisville Soccer Park at Edith Ave. and River Rd.
- 27 acres across River Road from the existing Eva Bandman Park
- 21 acres at the site of the former landfill at Frankfort Avenue and River Road
River Road Recreational Corridor
- 59-acre Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park
- 31-acre Caperton Swamp Park
- 54-acre Eva Bandman Park
- 166-acre Louisville Champions Park
- 53-acre Thurman Hutchins Park
- 41-acre Twin Park (North and South)
404 acres total
- U.S. Footy National Championships (Australian Rules Football) – Oct. 13-14
- U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross, Derby City Cup, Oct. 27-28