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Spalding University unveils Trager Park as part of SoBro greening initiative

Steve Jones

Spalding University unveiled a major component of its greening initiative on Nov. 3 with the dedication ceremony of 2.2-acre Trager Park, a grassy recreational space at the corner of South Second and West Kentucky streets that has been repurposed from an unused pad of asphalt.

A product of the philanthropy of Louisville Gas and Electric Company and the Trager Family Foundation, Trager Park will offer students and neighbors space for intramural sports and recreation while beautifying the South of Broadway (SoBro) neighborhood and providing a signature entrance for the southeast corner of Spalding’s campus. The park will also help diminish the urban heat island effect in the area.

“Through partnerships with community stewards like LG&E and the Trager Family Foundation, Spalding is able to expand its campus and opportunities for students while improving the quality of life of our neighbors and helping the environment,” Spalding President Tori Murden McClure said. “The new park will also become, literally, a cornerstone of the university, providing a lovely, usable green space that welcomes the community to our campus.”

Construction, which began in early summer, included the removal of about 150 asphalt parking spaces. Approximately 100 trees will be planted at Trager Park next spring.

“The beauty of what’s been created here is the positive impact and forward momentum it represents for multiple efforts within our community,” LG&E President and Chief Operating Officer Paul W. Thompson said. “Partnering on projects like this, that benefit the community in so many ways, is important to our company, which is what made this an ideal collaboration for us from the very beginning.”

The park is named in honor of Bernard Trager, the founder of Republic Bank, and his wife, Jean, thanks to a gift from their family in support of Spalding’s greening efforts.

“Trager Park meets all the criteria of what the Trager Family Foundation’s core mission is,” said Steve Trager, Bernard and Jean’s son who is Republic Bank’s chairman and chief executive officer. “It allows us to be associated with a great organization like Spalding, helps beautify our community and provides functional outdoor space not only for the students of the university but for all residents who live in and around the SoBro neighborhood. Involvement in this project was an absolute no-brainer.”

The creation of Trager Park has multiple environmental benefits, according to the Louisville Metro Office of Sustainability. By decreasing some of the 9 million square feet of impervious surface in SoBro taken up by parking lots and other infrastructure, the park will contribute to reducing surface temperatures and the amount of water that enters the stormwater system. After the trees are planted and mature, the park will increase the tree canopy of a neighborhood that currently has only a 9 percent canopy (about 21 acres), which is below the 15 percent recommended for central business districts by American Forests.

“We are grateful for Spalding’s leadership in converting an impervious surface to green space, especially in the SoBro neighborhood,” Louisville Metro Director of Sustainability Maria Koetter said. “Replacing concrete with grass and trees also lowers air and surface temperatures and creates a healthier environment and healthier citizens. In addition to beautifying the block, this investment will reduce the amount of water entering the stormwater system during rain events. We look forward to more residents, businesses and nonprofits following Spalding’s lead.”

Trager Park is the latest piece in Spalding’s ongoing greening initiative. In 2013, the university dedicated the Mother Catherine Spalding Square green space on West Breckenridge Street between South Third and South Fourth. Spalding also plans to construct an athletic fields complex, which will be the home of its softball and soccer teams, by repurposing a tract of more than seven acres between South Eighth and South Ninth. Fundraising for the fields project is ongoing.