Soccer fans growing

| February 2, 2011

The official attendance for Friday’s game between the Louisville Lightning and Ohio Vortex was 1,237, and the Lightning prevailed 8-3.

To those unfamiliar with the Lightning, it may seem like a paltry number for a professional sporting event. However, it’s not the number itself that is important. It’s the fact that Mockingbird Valley Sports Complex was packed Friday night, with seats filled and fans standing around the entire field to find a good view.

It should also be noted that it was the second consecutive game in which the Lightning set an attendance record, but this time against a team unfamiliar to fans with the squad struggling to overcome a disappointing start to the season.

The Lightning could have easily sold twice as many tickets Friday night, but Mockingbird can only hold a limited number of fans.
It’s important to note because as the Lightning are setting attendance records, University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich announced late last week that he’s launching a feasibility study to consider a new, on-campus stadium for Louisville soccer.

The news comes on the heels of Louisville’s first-ever appearance in the national championship , and the feasibility study reportedly accompanies a pending enhancement of coach Ken Lolla’s contract.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was in attendance for the Lightning game Friday, and I spoke candidly with him about the Lightning, soccer in Louisville, and the need to draw more young professionals to Louisville. Fischer cited U of L’s success as a marketing tool, but he also talked about the need for a new, larger soccer facility to serve the growing number of fans in the region.,  “One of the most exciting sporting events I ever witnessed,” Fischer quickly recalled, referring to a soccer game he witnessed growing up – a bold statement from the new leader of “Basketball City, U.S.A.”

Lightning star forward Kolby Lacrone has his own charitable foundation known as Kolby’s Kickers, an organization I’ve been working with to build new soccer fields in Ethiopia. Based in the Columbus, Ohio, area, Kolby talked about the need to direct many of the organization’s activities in Louisville.

“Columbus is numb to soccer because it has been prevalent there for quite some time. Louisville is a city that is excited about soccer; it’s a city where you can see the growth taking place right before your eyes,” Lacrone stated.

Louisville is on the cusp of becoming a legitimate soccer city. One visit to a Louisville Lightning or University of Louisville game verifies that claim.

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