When Orlando City FC enters MLS in 2015, its USL Pro franchise will move to Louisville, be owned by local investors, serve as an affiliate of the new MLS team and play under the Louisville City FC crest.
The local Louisville City FC investors include architect Wayne Estopinal. Orlando City FC will retain an ownership stake in the team, which will play at Louisville Slugger Field, home of the International League’s Louisville Bats baseball team, pending final city approval.
The soccer team will pay $5,000 per game in rent, with the baseball team retaining concession revenue. The two will work out scheduling details to allow a soccer match the day after a baseball game:
“Clearly this is a baseball stadium, and the Triple-A baseball franchise in this community takes precedence over a soccer team,” Bats president and CEO Gary Ulmer said. “We all think this will work, but if …things happen to the playing field well beyond what we anticipate, there will be some ability for the soccer team to move elsewhere. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Estopinal, a local architect who also owns the Mockingbird Valley Sports Complex, has already laid out plans to place artificial turf over base paths. The soccer pitch will run down the first base line, using most of the baseball infield and right field. Louisville City FC is also expecting to pay $230,000 for a retractable pitchers mound.
The Bats and soccer club won’t share personnel, though Louisville City FC will pay the baseball grounds crew to convert the field.
“Louisville is a proven sports city,” Estopinal said. “Louisville City will deliver an exciting style and pace of play that continues the Orlando City tradition. Many investors see the future of soccer internationally and domestically, and Louisville City is pleased to be part of USL Pro and looks forward to bringing excitement and fan entertainment value to our city.”
“USL Pro is thrilled to welcome Louisville City FC for the 2015 season,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “The beautiful city of Louisville, on the banks of the Ohio River, features a rich collegiate soccer tradition and is destined to become one of the top professional soccer cities in the United States. The distinguished leadership of Wayne Estopinal, combined with the strong and proven mentorship of Phil Rawlins and Adrian Heath from the Orlando City partnership group, provides Louisville City FC with an outstanding professional soccer organization.
“All of us at USL Pro look forward to working with Mayor Greg Fischer, the Louisville City FC ownership, and The Coopers – Louisville’s passionate supporters group – to bring exciting professional soccer to Louisville.”
The Orlando City USL Pro team made its debut in 2011, capturing USL Pro Championships in both 2011 and 2013 while establishing league attendance marks, including a record 20,886 at the 2013 championship match.
Stadium rendering courtesy Louisville City FC.