LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - You may have been there at some point in your life for a concert or sporting event. Louisville Gardens, located at 525 West Muhammad Ali Blvd., has been closed for years. On Monday, an East Coast businessman toured the vacant building hoping to breathe life back into the venue.
With all the development in the downtown area, from the KFC Yum! Center, to the Omni Louisville Hotel, to Whiskey Row, and eventually the convention center, there is still interest in the Louisville Gardens. Louisville Metro Government, the owner of Louisville Gardens, routinely give tours to interested parties. On Monday, Alan Omar, of Progressive Clean Energy, of New Jersey took a look. While estimating it would take about $50 million to get it up and running, Omar said he would like to invest in it and turn it back into an entertainment and arts venue.
"The foundation of this building is built," Omar said. "The basis of this building is in solid shape. The issues in this building around plumbing and some other things that we know what to do with is there. So that's what my challenge to the mayor and other people in the city to meet with us."
Louisville Gardens was more than an entertainment venue. The street signs give you a clue. When it was built in 1905, it was an armory. It's taken some hits over the years. In May 2016, the building got the brunt of strong storms. Now Louisville Gardens has become more of a storage facility for the city with old chairs, filing cabinets, and other office equipment inside. Definitely not the life that once was here when icons like Elvis Presley and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once walked through the doors. It's where the ABA Kentucky Colonels played.
"It's been vacant for now 10 years," Omar said. "It ain't going to take nowhere near that time to get this done."
Barbara Sexton Smith, whose 4th Metro Council District includes Louisville Gardens has memories of the building.
"I'm one of those kids that used to go there to see the Louisville orchestra," Sexton Smith said.
Efforts to redevelop the building have fallen through over the past few years. Sexton Smith says Louisville Forward economic development agency gives tours all the time to interested parties, but still no takers.
"A lot of people have great big dreams and I always want to encourage that," Sexton Smith said. "Once folks get inside analyze it and fully understand that it could easily be a $40 million-plus renovation, that's a lot of money to put together."
Omar does not have any investments in Louisville. The Department of Economic Development - Louisville Forward - says they have just become acquainted with Omar and welcome the interest for all people.
Mayor Greg Fischer says Louisville Gardens is a jewel in the city the city wants to make sure when the right concept comes along it's a world-class concept that will complement everything else happening in the city.
Some facts about the Louisville Gardens from Louisville Forward:
- Renovated in 1963 at a cost of $1.95 million. Added air-conditioning, conversion of the drill hall to a 5,000 seat arena, and changes to the front facade.
- Added to National Register of Historic Places on March 3, 1980.
- Last concert: My Morning Jacket, Nov. 22, 2006
- Current remediation efforts: Environmental consultants are removing hydraulic components of the two freight elevators due to PCB contamination from leaking hydraulic oil. The two passenger elevators will undergo surface decontamination and the lines will be flushed. This work is being done with a $75,000 grant from the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection.