There’s little doubt Thursday, November 8 was the most memorable day for Louisville City FC’s fans, players, staff and ownership over the past 12 months.
Making history as the first back-to-back champions in USL Cup history with a 1-0 victory against Phoenix Rising FC before a sellout crowd at Lynn Stadium, Louisville cemented itself as the USL Championship’s standard-bearers – a model for other clubs to aspire and chase.
But as powerful as that night was, one could argue that it’s not even the most significant day over the past 12 months for LouCity.
That moment arrived five months earlier, on Thursday, June 28, when the club officially broke ground on its new 11,300-seat stadium in the Butchertown neighborhood, a watershed venue for the league, and one that will solidify the club’s presence in the city for decades to come.
The stadium’s arrival for the 2020 USL Championship season serves as a remarkable achievement by LouCity’s Chairman John Neace, President Brad Estes, the rest of the club’s staff past and present, as well as Louisville’s city leadership. Last week’s announcement that the club had closed on financing for the project put the final piece in place for what is set to be a venue fit for the standard of club LouCity has quickly become.
“Our new stadium is a real sign of progress both for this club and the community at large,” said Estes upon the closure on financing for the stadium. “For the first time, we will benefit from all the revenue streams associated with professional soccer, which means sustainability for our business model long into the future. We would like to thank all our partners, especially the Mayor’s Office and Metro Council, without whom this stadium would not be possible.”
Local and state dignitaries and fans were all on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony for LouCity's new Butchertown stadium. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
The remarkable support the club has received over its first four seasons has been rewarded by a level of consistency on the field that has seen LouCity win more games than any other club – holding a double-digit advantage over its nearest rival – while sitting second with 261 goals over the same span.
That level of consistency withstood challenges this year, most notably the mid-season departure of the club’s first Head Coach James O’Connor to Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC shortly after the stadium groundbreaking. What remained, though, was a culture that had been ingrained in the locker room which allowed the club to continue its success while weathering the unprecedented situation of players Luke Spencer, Paolo DelPiccolo and George Davis IV serving as co-interim Head Coaches.
That culture drew praise from LouCity’s new Head Coach John Hackworth upon his arrival at the club and helped the side reel off 10 consecutive victories through the end of the regular season and the USL Cup Playoffs to lift its second consecutive title. Spencer’s game-winning goal against Rising FC capped an incredible run, and an incredible year for the club.
The new year will bring new challenges, most notably finding new pieces that will take the place of departing USL Championship Golden Boot-winner Cameron Lancaster, whose record-setting campaign earned him a deal with Nashville MLS, and two more of the club’s original roster in goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh and midfielder Kyle Smith, both reunited with O’Connor in Orlando.
While that is the case, it’s hard to envision a 2019 season where LouCity is not among the leading contenders to claim silverware once again in its final season at Slugger Field as its new stadium takes shape just across town.