LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The plan to turn a vacant eyesore into an economic engine took a big step forward, Monday.
A $3 million gift from the J. Graham Brown Foundation has propelled fundraising for a proposed state-of-the-art track and field complex in west Louisville.
Right now, the site at 30th and Muhammad Ali is 24 acres of overgrown weeds, cracked concrete, and broken promises. For years, the former industrial site has been a blight on the Russell neighborhood. Now, the Urban League is racing to build a $35-million indoor track and field complex there.It is a race to replace despair with development.
“Can you imagine, 20 to 30,000 people coming into the west end to see a track meet? That’s what we’re talking about,” said Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Urban League.
The Urban League is trying to raise $20 million by the end of the year to begin building what it calls a Sports and Learning Complex.
The city of Louisville has already kicked in $10 million. On Monday, the J. Graham Brown Foundation announced a $3 million pledge.
“Louisville is only as good as its neighborhoods,” said Mason Rummel of the Brown Foundation. “And we think this is a real opportunity to move the needle in a neighborhood that’s missed out for a long time.”
The Urban League still needs to raise about $3 million more to meet its goal. But Reynolds said the Brown Foundation gift should help silence the doubters.
“It shows that the Urban League is going to be able to get this done. It shows that very important, very serious, smart people believe in us enough to put their money where their mouth is,” Reynolds told WDRB News.
The development is expected to bring tourism and jobs to an area that badly needs a jump start in its economy and its attitude.
“It’s millions of dollars in terms of economic impact, potentially. And it’s also how we can uplift a neighborhood,” said Karl Schmitt of the Louisville Sports Commission.
If Reynolds can raise the funds the project needs by year’s end, philanthropists Steven Reily and Emily Bingham promised a bonus gift of $250,000.
“And I’m not going to let one dime slip through our fingers,” said Reynolds.
Beyond track and field, the plan is to also host conferences and concerts at the complex.
Click here to learn more about the project, or to donate.