Sunday, December 5, 2010

No Place Like Downtown

Ed Manassah was right.

Manassah, the former publisher of Kentucky’s largest newspaper, The Courier-Journal, served as visionary and head cheerleader for building the University of Louisville’s basketball arena downtown instead of alternative sites near the Louisville Water Company or at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. For having this vision, Manassah was criticized more than a bad basketball team. When Manassah’s newspaper crusaded for the downtown site, people accused him of sacrificing his journalistic integrity. Others suggested there must be some kind of nefarious hidden agenda at work.

Manassah was undeterred by those criticisms as well as concerns about cost and parking. He said a downtown arena would add sizzle to Louisville’s riverfront, while bolstering downtown businesses. As a result of his steady leadership – and that of Jim Host and others -- the downtown arena gained momentum and became a reality.

Today, I drive by the magnificent new arena at least twice daily. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several basketball games there. I’ve ridden a boat from southern Indiana to these games. I’ve felt downtown abuzz both before and afterward. Clearly, the downtown arena has benefitted both states.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine it anywhere else. After all, you can’t take a boat to the Water Company or revitalize a Central Business District from the fairgrounds. Furthermore, because of its location at the community’s doorstep, the arena is like a 720,000-square-foot welcome mat to the city and its university.

Maybe that’s why you so rarely hear from opponents of the downtown arena these days. If you did, even they’d probably admit that Manassah was right.

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