Demolition to begin on bleachers at Old Cardinal Stadium - News, Weather & Sports

Demolition to begin on bleachers at Old Cardinal Stadium

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Demolition of the bleachers will begin Monday at Old Cardinal Stadium, dilapidated and seldom used for years at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

South End Services, a Louisville-based salvage company, has agreed to pay the state $65,000 for the rights to the scrap metal. The project is scheduled to take 60 days, and crews will also demolish the restrooms beneath the bleacher section.

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The plan to remove and salvage the bleachers and restrooms followed an engineering report last year that determined there were several structural issues at the stadium.

"It's an iconic stadium," said Rip Rippetoe, chief executive officer of the Kentucky State Fair Board. "It's sad in one respect that it couldn't be renovated but, at the same time, it's the ability for us to look at building a new era at the State Fairgrounds."

The facility's future was in doubt ever since the University of Louisville football team moved into Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and Slugger Field opened in 2000 for minor-league baseball games.

What to do with the much-larger grandstand section remains a complicated issue. Fair Board officials will ask state lawmakers for $3 million during the 2016 budget session, which Rippetoe said is the anticipated cost of demolishing the entire stadium.

The multipurpose stadium has had a variety of uses since it opened in the 1950s as Fairgrounds Stadium. It has hosted the Rolling Stones, NSYNC and Jimmy Buffett.

The Louisville Redbirds, a Triple A baseball team, moved into the facility in 1984. The team created many memories for Louisville Bats senior vice president Greg Galiette, who started as an intern for the Redbirds.

"From a business standpoint, playing baseball in a 35,000-seat facility -- which, at the time, was the largest facility in America for minor league baseball -- you could have a great crowd in here with 20,000 people, but it wouldn't have the atmosphere the Louisville Slugger Field has because it was so big," Galiette said.

The stadium's bleacher section was less than 300 feet from home plate, leading to many home runs from left handed hitters. Former President George H.W. Bush threw out the first pitch at a game in 1992.

After its main tenants moved out, the stadium fell into disrepair. By 2013, inspectors deemed the bleachers and grandstand unsafe. The Fair Board has recently only used the facility for storage and concerts during the Kentucky State Fair, seating people on the field level.

"I think it's time to move on," Galiette said. "There's got to be some other use for this space rather than it sitting and rotting away."

The salvage company will haul away the aluminum bleachers and steel supports, but Rippetoe said the Fair Board is considering allowing people to buy grandstand seats as keepsakes someday.

The Fair Board will conduct a study in 2015 to determine the best future use for the property, Rippetoe said.

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