Images courtesy of the Louisville Downtown Partnership.
What was once a vacant, open lot on Main Street in the middle of downtown Louisville, Kentucky is now a repurposed, urban sports park meant to interject liveliness and activity in the city.
Officially named the Baird Urban Sports Park, the space now features a wiffle ball field and pickleball courts open for league play starting on August 31.
The renovation was made possible thanks to a partnership between Baird, the YMCA of Greater Louisville, Louisville Parks and Recreation and the Louisville Downtown Partnership (LDP).
Bryn Alston, the marketing and communications specialist for LDP, said Baird funded the full transformation by giving an estimated $25,000 to the project.
“It came up during last summer in 2021, and Metro parks brought the idea to us,” said Alston. “It was thought of as a wiffle ball field at first, and then pickleball really has been picking up steam lately so we thought that would be a good addition. Baird’s sponsorship was able to transform this place. They are actually a national Pickleball partner so that’s why they jumped on this. They were so generous.”
Features and Benefits
The Baird Sports Park offers about 20,000 square feet of playing space. The lot was large enough to paint full, regulation size pickleball courts and a wiffle ball field. There are also three large murals on the walls surrounding the area depicting famous Louisville figures such as the late Muhammad Ali.
The park will be open to league play for pickleball on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and for wiffle ball on Thursdays from 5:30 to p.m. 8:30 p.m. Alston said they are currently working on creating a schedule for reoccurring open play hours throughout the week.
For the immediate future, the space will be closed at all other times of the week unless it is reserved beforehand. Reserving the space for a two-hour block costs $100, and a special events permit is needed to do so.
Alston said another reason why the LDP wanted to encourage league play downtown is so employees from local businesses could easily walk over and play after their workday ended.
“We wanted to push it in the direction of something people could come to after work and have friendly competition,” she said. “It’s in the heart of downtown on historic Main Street. People walk by daily and see it. If they see something new going on there, then they will get excited. We have received great feedback so far.”
Advice and the Future
That excitement would be a welcome sight for the LDP as Alston said they want to see more people go back downtown while society continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With seeing people out doing things — that’s really important post-pandemic,” she said. “You haven’t seen as many people on the street since we have begun getting back to normal. Getting people back in the downtown area will do wonders for future events as well. It’s also a way to encourage employees to return to the office. We chose to have these leagues take place after working hours to encourage them to stay downtown and participate.”
For community rec centers thinking about joining a similar partnership to revitalize their downtown areas, Alston advised to engage in marketing the idea publicly.
“Our executive director Rebecca Fleischaker is amazing and ambitious,” said Alston. “She is willing to spread the word on all social media channels to have that open conversation with other companies like Parks & Rec and the YMCA. They are also promoting the space and helping to spread the word. As people enjoy this unique experience, we hope to create more of these spaces and allow people to see how to use Downtown.”
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