Location in Kentucky
Location in the United States
|Former names||Papa John's Cardinal Stadium (1998–2018)|
|Location||2800 South Floyd Street|
Louisville, KY 40209
|Owner||University of Louisville|
|Operator||University of Louisville|
|Record attendance||58,187 (September 2, 2019)|
|Broke ground||June 19, 1996|
|Opened||September 5, 1998|
|Construction cost||$135 million|
($214 million in 2020 dollars)
Luckett & Farley
|General contractor||Huber, Hunt & Nichols|
|Louisville Cardinals (NCAA) (1998–present)|
Cardinal Stadium, formerly known as 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 6,000 additional seats was announced on August 28, 2015, and was completed in 2019.
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 (37 ha) 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 formerly providing a prefix to the main name. John Schnatter, a native of nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana, donated $5 million for the naming rights to the stadium, which he used to christen the venue for his Papa John's Pizza chain. Schnatter made a further $10 million donation for the stadium's expansion, and extended the naming rights to the year 2040.
The stadium was christened on September 5, 1998; the Cardinals lost the opening game to the Kentucky Wildcats 68–34 but won all other home games that year.
On July 13, 2018, the stadium was renamed Cardinal Stadium by University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi. The change was a reaction to Schnatter using a racial slur on a Papa John's conference call.
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. The seating expansion in the North end zone is loosely based on the North end zone seating structure of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks Lumen Field. 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 HD 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.
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, Cardinal Stadium 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. Eventually, they were moved to Kroger Field at the University of Kentucky.
|Date||Artist||Opening act(s)||Tour / Concert name||Attendance||Revenue||Notes|
|May 30, 2009||Kenny Chesney||Lady Antebellum
|Sun City Carnival Tour||40,144 / 40,144||$2,881,832|
|May 28, 2016||Kenny Chesney||Miranda Lambert
|Spread the Love Tour||42,448 / 45,500||$2,475,354|
|June 16, 2017||U2||OneRepublic||The Joshua Tree Tour 2017||45,491 / 45,491||$4,810,535|||
|June 30, 2018||Taylor Swift||Camila Cabello
|Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour||52,138 / 52,138||$4,928,219||The show is the highest attended and highest grossing show in the stadium, and was also the last event under the "Papa John's Cardinal Stadium" name.|
The Stadium has hosted multiple US Women's National Soccer Team fixtures.
The venue has also seen use for large religious events. Evangelist Billy Graham held one of his crusades at the stadium. The Bands of America Louisville Regional Championships, have also been held at the stadium numerous times, since 2004, hosting bands from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and other states around the region.
The stadium hosted Nitro Circus Live on July 9, 2016.
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 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 (3,700 m2) 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, which would have brought the total number of seats in the stadium to 65,000; however, the university later decided to allocate seating space to other amenities so that only about 6,000 seats would be added in this project. The football team continued playing in the stadium during construction, and the project was completed in 2019. The expansion added 10 field-level suites, 65 box seats at the club level, and 1,000 club seats with a VIP gathering area.