Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
|Location||2800 South Floyd Street
Louisville, KY 40209
|Owner||University of Louisville|
|Operator||University of Louisville|
(65,000 in 2018)
|Broke ground||June 19, 1996|
|Opened||September 5, 1998|
|Construction cost||$135 million
($198 million in 2016 dollars)
Luckett & Farley
|General contractor||Huber, Hunt & Nichols|
|Louisville Cardinals (NCAA) (1998–present)|
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is a football stadium located in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, on the southern end of the campus of the University of Louisville. Debuting in 1998, it serves as the home of the Louisville Cardinals football program. The official seating capacity in the quasi-horseshoe shaped facility was 42,000 through the 2008 season. An expansion project that started after the 2008 season was completed in time for the 2010 season has brought the official capacity to 55,000. An additional expansion project aiming to close the open end of the horseshoe to add 10,000 additional seats was announced on August 28, 2015, with the goal of opening within 2 years.
History and fundraising
Due to the Kentucky General Assembly being unable to provide any public funding, construction of the stadium began with private funds, which included the reclamation of the land upon which the South Louisville Rail Yard was situated. The soils of the 92 acre brownfield site contained 47 different contaminants of concern before the project began. The rail yard's shift horn was saved and installed in the stadium's north end zone scoreboard and is sounded whenever the Cardinals score.
The new parking at the stadium allowed many commuting students more parking access. This ultimately led to more redevelopment of on-campus parking lots, turning them into various athletic facilities.
In 2000, Central Avenue was widened and extended from Taylor Boulevard to Crittenden Drive, a major redevelopment project. Because the road connected Churchill Downs, an entrance to the Kentucky Exposition Center (which is home to Freedom Hall) and the university's new baseball venue, Jim Patterson Stadium, all located within a mile of each other, the road has now been dubbed as "Louisville's Sports Corridor."
The stadium was named for "Old" Cardinal Stadium, which is located at the Kentucky Exposition Center, but with corporate naming rights providing its current distinction. Papa John's Pizza, founded by John Schnatter, a native of nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana, donated $5 million for the naming rights to the stadium. Schnatter made a further $10 million donation for the stadium's expansion, and extended the naming rights to the year 2040.
- Card March is 2 hours and 15 minutes prior to kick-off. Players and coaches are dropped off by bus on Central Avenue above the Card March tunnel, and greeted by screaming fans and cheerleaders as they walk down the stairs and through the tunnel leading to the stadium. The University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band routinely plays an array of fight songs to welcome the team into the stadium gates.
- Train Cabooses - as an homage to the history of the PJCS location, train cabooses are used for tailgating outside the west side of the stadium.
- 30 minutes prior to kick-off the stadium shoots off fireworks and sounds the train horn to signify to tailgaters to get into the stadium.
- Prior to the game, the Cardinals exit the Howard Schnellenberger Complex and each member touches the Johnny Unitas Statue before running onto the field.
- Prior to kickoff, the Cardinal mascot parachutes onto the field from a plane flying over the stadium. (This is only practiced during ideal weather conditions and big games now).
- After the coin toss, the camera focuses in on a former UofL student athlete to lead the entire stadium in the "C-A-R-D-S" cheer.
- First Downs. After a UofL first down, the PA announcer will say the player making the first and down and then "and that's good for another..." and the fans respond "Cards First Down". Example: PA- "#5 Teddy Bridgewater pass complete to #9 DeVante Parker for 12 yards and that's good for another..." and the fans yell "Cards First Down!"
- After each UofL kick-off, fast food restaurant, Rally's selects four local kids to be the "Rally's kick-off Kid." After a kick-off by UofL, the kid runs to get the placeholder on the field.
- After each UofL score - The land that Papa John's Cardinal Stadium now occupies was previously the location of the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) South Louisville Rail Yard. During construction of the stadium, the Train Horn that was used at the rail yard to indicate shift changes was salvaged, and is now blown every time the Cardinals score.
- After each game, regardless of a win or loss, the team gathers in front of the student section and Cardinal Marching Band to sing the school's Alma Mater and fight song, "Fight! UofL". This tradition began during the Charlie Strong era, when he strategically relocated the band between the student section and the south end zone, known as the Crunch Zone.
- The Victory lap began in the old Cardinal Stadium at the end of the 1990 season. After each Win, Louisville players walk around the stadium and give each fan a high-five.
At the north end of the stadium is the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex, which houses the football offices and the conditioning center for the football team. Also at the north end is a bronze statue of Johnny Unitas, NFL great and the most famous football alumnus of the university. As part of game day tradition, each Cardinal player touches the base of the statue before entering the field prior to kickoff. In 2006 the $10 million Trager Center, an indoor practice facility opened just north of the Schnellenberger Complex, providing a dry and warm area to allow undisrupted practices in Louisville's highly variable weather.
An interesting feature is the Brown and Williamson Club located at the rear of the stadium's press box. It contains several large ball rooms and is rented out for receptions to bring in additional revenue. It is also often used by the school to host prominent visiting speakers. The venue overlooks the school's new Jim Patterson Stadium and Jewish Hospital Sports Medicine complex, which was completed in 2005.
At the start of the 2006 football season, a new state-of-the-art high definition scoreboard was installed in the north end zone. It is three times as large as the previous scoreboard. A new red LED scoreboard was also installed in the south end zone, as was a lighted "University of Louisville" sign around the upper rim of the exterior of the east stands, which increases the stadium's visibility from Interstate 65.
Uses other than Louisville football
The stadium has hosted many events apart from U of L football, among them soccer matches, including fixtures for the US women's national team; concerts; auto shows; and the annual DCI Louisville drum & bugle corps competition, hosting several corps from the midwest.
In high school football, it has hosted a local event known as the Ray Adams Charger Classic, plus various other games. Most notably, PJCS is the regular host of two major city rivalries—the Catholic rivalry between St. Xavier and Trinity, which regularly draws crowds in the 35,000 range; and the Male-Manual game, a public-school battle which is the longest running, continuously played high school football rivalry in America. It was also the annual site of the Kentucky state high school football championship games until the 2009 season, when the games were moved to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
PJCS has also seen use for large religious events. Evangelist Billy Graham held one of his crusades at the stadium.
In October 2006, an official rendering and details were released of what an expanded stadium would look like and cost. The ambitious original plan called for an additional 21,600 seats and 70 suites added via a new upper deck on the side opposite the main press box area, all for an estimated price tag of $63 million, which is almost identical to the cost to build the original stadium.
On August 27, 2007, John Schnatter donated $10 million in support of the expansion, and extended naming rights through 2040. The Kentucky General Assembly, the state legislature, provided the balance of funding for the project. The stadium is therefore about 46% state-funded in total.
On December 1, 2008, construction started on the east side of the stadium, and the expansion was finished in Fall 2010. The expansion was scaled down from the original plans with about 13,000 additional seats (1,725 of which are higher-priced club seats) and 33 suites instead of the originally planned 70. There is also a 100-yard-long luxury room called the PNC Club, which is similar to the west-side Brown & Williamson Club but has a glassed-in view of the field. There is also standing space for 2,500 people on the new Norton Healthcare Terrace located on the south end (closed end) of the horseshoe-shaped stadium. The expansion, which eventually cost $72 million, also included 20 new rest rooms, two new 345' x 3' LED ribbon boards located on the fascia of the east and west sides of the stadium, a new 60' x 20' LED video board on the south end of the stadium, matching in size the existing board on the north end, and a new 13 x 9 LED board facing outside the stadium to the south.
As of November 2013, The University of Louisville is looking into future stadium expansion as the university announced it is accepting bids from organizations looking to study the possibility of adding seats to the North end zone of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Former head coach Charlie Strong stated in September 2013 that he would like to see the stadium enclosed at the North end zone. The Stadium was originally designed with the ability to expand up to 80,000 seats.
The University of Louisville announced on December 1, 2014 that supporters have matched a $3 million gift given by Thorntons Inc. to construct a new academic center underneath the Norton Terrace. It will house all academic functions for the university's athletic department and place classes for student-athletes under one roof. The 40,000-square-foot facility will have tutorial space, laboratories, and offices and classrooms to serve more than 750 student-athletes across the university's 23 sports. Construction of the facility is expected to begin by the spring, and officials project work will be completed by fall 2016.
The University of Louisville announced on August 28, 2015, that a new planned expansion would add 10,000 additional seats to the stadium at the north end zone, bringing the total number of seats in the stadium to 65,000. Athletic director Tom Jurich said that in a "perfect world, we'd like to open in two years" but that there was no set completion deadline. The football team will continue playing in the stadium during construction. The expansion would add 10 field-level suites, 65 box seats at the club level, and 1,000 club seats with a VIP gathering area.
- 55,632 vs. Florida State, September 17, 2016 
- 55,428 vs. Miami, September 1, 2014 
- 55,414 vs. Florida State, October 30, 2014 
- 55,396 vs. Clemson, September 17, 2015 
- 55,386 vs. Kentucky, September 2, 2012 
- 55,332 vs. Ohio, September 1, 2013 
- 55,327 vs. Kentucky, September 4, 2010 
- 55,218 vs. NC State, October 22, 2016 
- 55,215 vs. UCF, October 18, 2013 
- 55,168 vs. Rutgers, October 10, 2013 
- 55,121 vs. Duke, October 14, 2016 
- 55,118 vs. Kentucky, November 29, 2014 
- 55,106 vs. Cincinnati, October 15, 2010 
- 54,075 vs. Kentucky, November 26, 2016 
- 53,647 vs. Eastern Kentucky, September 7, 2013 
- 53,334 vs. North Carolina, September 15, 2012 
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