Cardinal Stadium Information
Cardinal Stadium, formerly known as Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to differentiate it from the Old Cardinal Stadium. The (new) Cardinal Stadium is a football stadium located in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. To be more precise, it is on the southern end of the campus of the University of Louisville. Since its debut in 1998, it serves as the home of the Louisville Cardinals football program.
The official seating capacity in this quasi-horseshoe shaped facility was 42,000 through the 2008 season. An expansion project was completed in time for the 2010 season has brought the official capacity to 55,000. Another additional expansion project that closed the open end of the horseshoe to add 6,000 additional seats was announced on August 28, 2015, with the goal of an opening within 2 years. Additionally, the highest attendance recorded in the stadium was at 55,632, Cardinals beat Florida State on September 17, 2016.
Kentucky General Assembly was unable to provide any public funding, so construction of the stadium began with private funds. These fundings paid for the reclamation of the land upon which the South Louisville Rail Yard was situated. The soils of the 92-acre brownfield site contained 47 different contaminants before the project began. The rail yard’s shift horn was saved and installed in the stadium’s north end zone scoreboard. It is now a tradition to sound the horn whenever the Cardinals score.
The stadium was christened on September 5, 1998. Despite the Cardinals lost the opening game to the Kentucky Wildcats 68–34, they continued to win all other home games that year.
At the north end of the stadium is the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex and a bronze statue of Johnny Unitas, NFL great and the most famous football alumnus of the university. Traditionally, 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.
An interesting feature of the stadium is the Brown and Williamson Club which is located at the rear of the stadium’s press box. It contains several large ballrooms that are to be rented out for receptions to bring in additional revenue. It is also often used by the school to host prominent visiting speakers. The press box overlooks the school’s new Jim Patterson Stadium and Jewish Hospital Sports Medicine complex, which was completed in 2005.
In October 2006, an official rendering and details were released of what an expanded stadium would look like and cost. The ambitious 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, the owner of Papa John’s pizza franchise, donated $10 million in support of the expansion and extended naming rights through 2040. The Kentucky General Assembly, the state legislature, provided the balance of funding for the project. The stadium is therefore about 46% state-funded in total. However, on July 13, 2018, the stadium was renamed Cardinal Stadium by University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi. The change was a reaction to Schnatter using a racial slur on a Papa John’s conference call.
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. The expansion, which eventually cost $72 million including the construction of the Brown and Williamson Club and other upgrades.
As of November 2013, the University of Louisville is looking into future stadium expansion. The university announced it is accepting bids from organizations looking to study the possibility of adding seats to the North end zone of Cardinal Stadium. The stadium was originally designed with the ability to expand up to 80,000 seats.
About a year later, the University of Louisville announced on December 1, 2014, that supporters have matched a $3 million gift given by Thorntons Inc. Approximately $6 million was collected for the construction of a new academic center underneath the Norton Terrace. The 40,000-square-foot facility will have tutorial space, laboratories, offices, and classrooms to serve more than 750 student-athletes across the university’s 23 sports.
UofL made another announcement on August 28, 2015, that a newly planned expansion would add 10,000 additional seats to the stadium. The addition is expected to be at the north end zone, which would have brought the total number of seats in the stadium to 65,000. However, it later admitted that only about 6,000 seats would be added in this project. Tom Jurich, who was the university’s athletic director when the expansion plan was first announced, said that in a “perfect world, we’d like to open in two years”. Albeit, in reality, there was no set completion deadline. The football team continued playing in the stadium during construction. The expansion is expected to add 10 field-level suites, 65 box seats at the club level, and 1,000 club seats with a VIP gathering area.
The stadium has hosted many events apart from U of L football. Among them are soccer matches, including fixtures for the US women’s national team; concerts; large religious events; auto shows; and the annual DCI Louisville drum & bugle corps competition, hosting several corps from the midwest.
For more information on the Cardinal Stadium, please see the specific pages below.
Arriving by car? Read about parking options on the Cardinal Stadium parking information page.
For information on ticket guarantee and other ticket related questions, view the Cardinal Stadium tickets page.
For information on accessible seating and to view the Cardinal Stadium seating chart page.