Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is a football stadium located in Louisville, Kentucky, USA and serves as the home of the University of Louisville football program. It opened in 1998, making it the second-to-last football stadium in NCAA Division I-A (now Division I FBS) to open in the 20th century, with SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium being the last. The official seating capacity in the horseshoe-shaped facility was 42,000 through the 2008 season. An expansion project that started after the 2008 season temporarily reduced capacity to 40,000 for 2009 (although the official capacity remained unchanged); its completion for the 2010 season has brought the official capacity to 55,000 plus.

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 purchasing and removal of the South Louisville Rail Yard, a historic rail car repair shop. The factory's shift horn was saved and installed in the stadium's north end zone scoreboard, and sounds every time the Cardinals score.

The new parking at the stadium allowed the university to move some parking for commuting students there, allowing redevelopment of on-campus parking lots into campus housing and 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 a linguistic distinction. Papa John's Pizza founder and CEO John Schnatter, a native of nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana, donated $5 million for the naming rights to the stadium.

The stadium was christened on September 5th, 1998, in a 34-68 loss to Kentucky.

Traditions
  • Prior to the game, the Cardinals exit the Howard Schnellenberger Complex and each touch the Johnny Unitas Statue before running onto the field.
  • The Card March is 2 hours prior to kick-off. Players and coaches are greeted by fans and cheerleaders as the walk through the tunnel leading to the stadium. The University of Louisville "RED RAGE!" Marching Band routinely plays an array of fight songs to welcome the team into the stadium gates.
  • 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.
  • CARDS Chant, goes like this: C-A-R-D-S (letter by letter), C-A-R-D-S (2x fast), Go-Cards-Go!
Physical features

The university claims that PJCS is the only university-owned and operated stadium in America with no bleachers.

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, 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.

The stadium has also hosted soccer matches, including fixtures for the US women's national team; concerts; auto shows; the Ray Adams Charger Classic, a local high school football event; other high school football games, notably the local rivalry game between St. Xavier and Trinity; and the evangelist Billy Graham; as well as the annual DCI Louisville drum & bugle corps competition.

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.

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 and has the phrase "The Ville" emblazoned atop it. 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.

Stadium expansion

In October 2006, an official rendering and details were released of what an expanded stadium would look like and cost. The 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. This time the Kentucky General Assembly, the state legislature, came through with the remaining 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 restrooms, two new 345' x 3' LED ribbon boards located on the facia 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.

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