Unless you’re a soccer fan or soccer parent, you may not know that Louisville has a new professional sports team. It’s not pro football, it’s not pro basketball and they aren’t playing in the new arena... yet. But, the Louisville Lightning
soccer IS selling out games, beating the competition and bringing a love for the game to the river city.
Over the last decade, soccer has become the most played youth sport in America. After the success of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. men’s national team’s surprise run through the 2002 World Cup and David Beckham’s journey to the MLS, soccer has become a fixture on vacant patches of grass and TV screens all across the country.
The Lightning is the city’s latest step in becoming a part of the national soccer movement. While Louisville has played host to the U.S. Women’s National Team and other professional women’s games, this time, the city has a team it can call its own.
The Louisville Lightning is one of 25 teams that play in the Professional Arena Soccer League. The team currently sits at 8-4-3 and is in second place in the eastern division. With sell-out crowds at Mockingbird Valley Soccer Arena
(3000 Mellwood Ave.) for each of its five home games, the Lightning is proving how a talented team and a hungry fan base makes for a successful venture.
David Horne, general manager of the Lightning says “Our strong reputation through word of mouth and customer satisfaction is the cornerstone of our success. Our website receives up to 1,000 hits per day. We have 3,000 Facebook fans
, and have over 5,000 people signed up for our e-newsletter. We are the best-kept secret in Louisville right now. Our team is a Kentucky home grown product with 14 of our 24 players from KY High Schools.”
“The place is packed to the gills for games; we have a DJ and Emcee, a free kid zone with inflatables, dance team, Thunder Zone super fan area, a beer garden, VIP viewing area, and not to mention fast-paced, high-scoring indoor soccer! This is an exciting professional team to watch, a truly unique venue, and a fun, affordable night for the families and young professionals of Louisville.”
With the winning combination of soccer talent and selling out each game at over 1,000 fans, future growth and expectations are not words the team’s owner, Wayne Estopinal takes for granted. Estopinal adds “It would be great to win the league, but we realize there are some very good teams and we need to improve with every training session and game to compete. We would like to have a broad fan base that transcends all of the youth clubs in the area, and our last goal is to outgrow our arena at MVSC and have to find larger accommodations."
With a first season that has already surpassed everyone’s calculations and highest goals, the team and its management looks to improve on every facet of the experience. Horne adds “Ultimately the goal is longevity. We are striving to create an organization that can sustain itself, and we're hoping to build a model franchise for the league. Along with VP of Operations Nick Stover, we are running a front office staff of 20 interns working around the clock on team and league issues. The league and other teams are taking not of our achievements, and we hope to continue our successes as we move forward. Regardless of what we're doing off the field, the last piece of the puzzle is winning the championship on the field, and I think we're have the right people here to accomplish that.”
Incorporating skilled players, a spirited and knowledgeable fan base and throwing them all into a top-notch facility, the Louisville Lightning is proving they are the definition of a winning combination.
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Photo: Courtesy of Loisville Lightning