A new historical marker was unveiled on Thursday morning at Spalding University’s Columbia Gym that commemorates the building at 824 S. Fourth St. as the location where a young Muhammad Ali learned to box.

The marker unveiling took place one day before what would have been Ali’s 78th birthday on Jan. 17. On Ali’s birthday two years ago, Spalding officially changed the name of its athletic building back to Columbia Gym.

A red bicycle hangs over the entrance of Columbia Gym as a tribute to Ali and his first encounter with Louisville Police Officer Joe Martin, who ran a boxing gym in the lower level of the building and became Ali’s first trainer.

Bronze Columbia Gym historical marker reads: At Columbia Gym, a young Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, told Louisville Police Officer Joe Martin he was going to "whup" whoever stole his bike. Martin became Alis first train. Martin introduced Ali to regional audiences through the local boxing show, Tomorrows Champions and encouraged him to compete in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
The new historical marker outside the front entrance of Columbia Gym, where a red bike also hangs as a tribute to Muhammad Ali.

The Columbia Gym historical marker, which is located next to the front steps of the main entrance, is one in a new series of Ali-related markers around the city that are produced by the Kentucky Historical Society and that celebrate the legendary humanitarian and boxer’s Louisville roots. The series of markers is supported by Louisville Tourism, which also developed the Footsteps of Greatness tour of Ali-related landmarks in Louisville that includes Columbia Gym.

On Thursday, Ali’s brother, Rahman Ali, joined Spalding President Tori Murden McClure in pulling off the cloth cover to reveal the Columbia historical marker.

“That sense of striving, that sense of passion, that sense of wanting to make the world a better place is what (Muhammad Ali) stood for,” McClure said.

In what has become a key piece of Louisville history, in 1954, 12-year-old Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, parked his new red bicycle outside the building at 824 S. Fourth St. while he went inside to attend the Louisville Home Show. When he came back out, the bike had been stolen. An angry Clay found Martin there and reported the crime, telling Martin that he planned to “whup” whoever took the bike.

Martin told Clay that before he could do that, he better first learn to fight. He then introduced Clay to training at the Columbia Gym, setting in motion what would become a storied amateur boxing career that included winning a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Tori McClure addresses crowd at press conference outside Columbia Gym
President McClure addresses the crowd outside Columbia Gym.

Spalding acquired the building years later, and Columbia Gym is now the home of Spalding’s NCAA Division III volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the Golden Eagles’ athletic department offices and the historic Columbia Auditorium, where many campus and community events are held. Spalding’s student fitness center, weight room, athletic training room, locker rooms and health clinic are located on the lower level, where Joe Martin’s boxing gym once was.

A series of photo panels on the wall of the lower level pay tribute to the red bike story and Ali’s ties to Spalding. As a teenager, Ali had a part-time job across the street from the Columbia Gym at what was then the Spalding library.

Muhammad Ali Center President and CEO Donald E. Lassere, Louisville Tourism Vice President of Destination Services Zack Davis, Kentucky Historical Society Community Engagement Coordinator Ali Robic, Spalding Dean of Graduate Education Dr. Kurt Jefferson and Spalding Athletics Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Danielle Lavender also spoke at Thursday morning’s dedication.

Lavender, who trains Spalding’s student-athletes in the Columbia Gym, said they draw inspiration from training in the same general space where Ali began his journey to athletic greatness.

“It’s awesome working in this building every day,” Lavender said. “It’s me with 150 athletes, and every day they are trying to come in and do better. Over our doors, (inspirational messages) say, ‘Effort is everything,’ and they know that.  With this historical marker now and everything we have up in the hallways (alluding to Ali), they know, ‘You better give it your all down here.'”

About the Kentucky Historical Marker Program: The Kentucky Historical Marker Program, administered by the Kentucky Historical Society in cooperation with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, tells Kentucky’s story through on-the-spot history lessons that connect the history, communities and items housed in the Commonwealth’s many historical organizations. The program makes Kentucky’s history accessible to the public not just on markers along the state’s roadways, but also online at www.history.ky.gov/markers and via the Explore Kentucky History smartphone application available free at iTunes and Google Play. 

With a big crowd in attendance on a perfect, clear night, Spalding University broke in its new athletic fields complex on the evening of Oct. 23 with a grand opening celebration that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

About 800 fans gathered under the lights of the 7.3-acre complex between South Eighth and South Ninth streets to watch the Golden Eagles’ men’s and women’s soccer doubleheader, as well as a grand opening ceremony and ceremonial “First Kick” of soccer ball between games.

It was the culmination of nearly six years of private fundraising for the complex and about six months of construction, which was overseen by general contractor Schaefer Construction. The finished product will be a source of pride and achievement for the university for years to come.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer praised Spalding President Tori Murden McClure, Athletic Director Roger Burkman and the entire university community for being unafraid to take on big projects.

“And this was a big project,” the mayor said.

“What I love about Spalding is that you guys work hard each and every day,” Fischer said, before alluding to McClure’s most famous individual athletic feat. “It’s kind of like rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, one stroke at a time. If there’s something to be done, you can bet on this team here at Spalding. The kind of hope that you all represent, the persistence that you represent, it’s come true here tonight with this great facility. It’s a wonderful bridge for hope for our entire community. Tori, Roger, and the entire team, thank you very much on behalf of our great city. Wonderful job.”



Located on the site of a former unused industrial brownfield and about four blocks west of the primary campus, the athletic complex provides for the first time an on-campus home for Spalding’s men’s and women’s soccer and softball teams, which have previously had to travel to high school facilities around the city to practice and host games.  The complex includes two turf soccer fields and a turf softball field that are lighted and can be used year-round. The Spalding softball team will begin playing at the complex during the upcoming spring 2020 season.

Spalding University Athletic Fields lit up at dusk
The Spalding University Athletic Complex was lit up on the edge of downtown during the Oct. 23 grand opening soccer doubleheader.

“Now (the soccer and softball programs) have a place that they can call their own,” Burkman said. “It’s a game-changer. You think about it from a recruiting standpoint and how it’s going to level that playing field, so to speak. And you can already see on the faces of our athletes how excited they are. When you talk to them about it, they just start smiling, and they just light up. And in the prospects who come to campus, you can see their eyes light up as well.”

New Spalding sports programs are set to make the complex their home as well.

Spalding is already in the early stages of adding men’s and women’s lacrosse, utilizing the soccer field that is also lined for that sport. Though a full plan for the creation of men’s and women’s lacrosse programs is still being developed, the university recently posted job openings for a men’s coach and women’s coach.

The other soccer field is lined for field hockey, allowing Spalding to explore adding a program in that sport, too.

The complex will also be available for outside clubs and schools to rent.

Surrounded by dozens of new trees and extensive landscaping, the fields complex also helps beautify the neighborhood at a site where there was previously nothing but asphalt and weeds. It continues Spalding’s effort to green and transform urban spaces south of Broadway. In recent years, the school turned a 2.2-acre parking lot into Trager Park – a grassy public recreational space at the corner of South Second and West Kentucky – and built the Mother Catherine Square green space in the center of campus at South Third and West Breckinridge.

More photos | Look back at months’ of the athletic fields’ construction progress and the grand opening on Spalding’s Facebook page.

Spalding University’s field of dreams project is officially off and running on S. Ninth Street, with shovels in the ground and ballgames not far off.

On Friday, April 12, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Council President David James  joined Spalding President Tori Murden McClure, Athletic Director Roger Burkman and Spalding Board of Trustees Chair Jim Rissler in the official groundbreaking of the 7.4-acre athletic fields complex between Eighth and Ninth Street. All the coaches and student-athletes from the Golden Eagles’ soccer and softball programs surrounded them and helped celebrate the start of the construction phase of the project that will give those teams an on-campus home for the first time.

Spalding is building two turf soccer fields – expected to be ready for competition by mid-fall 2019 – and a turf softball field (ready by spring 2020) that will be lighted and available for use year-round.

“I want you all to think about the impact all of you are having on our university, our community and all of these young people you see standing behind me (thanks to your support of the fields project),” Burkman said. “They’re really the reason why we do what we do. … I’m so thankful that (the softball and soccer teams) will have a place to call their homes.”

To be built on the site of a former industrial tract that had long been unused, the new Spalding fields will also beautify the Ninth Street corridor while providing a community resource. The fields, which could also be used for field hockey and lacrosse, will be available for other schools and clubs to rent. Men’s soccer coach Adam Boyer said he envisions the fields being the site of future youth clinics and camps and other types of service events.

“There is no doubt about it that this will be one of the coolest Division III facilities in the country and provide a wealth of benefits to our student-athletes,” Boyer said. “It’ll be a huge boost to our overall student-athlete experience in addition to improving our ability to recruit players to our programs. We’re looking forward to seeing the impact these fields have on our entire student population at Spalding – from intramural opportunities to being a unified source of school provide.

“These fields are a dream come true.”

McClure has said that the athletic fields are, literally, a game-changer for Spalding’s student-athletes and will position them to grow and succeed.

“When you’re a Division III student-athlete, you’re truly a student first and an athlete second. But I firmly believe that college athletics is not extra-curricular; it’s extra curriculum,” she said. “You learn the persistence, the endurance, the resourcefulness that it takes to make a difference not just on the field but in the real world.”

Spalding purchased the property, located between South Eighth and South Ninth and bounded by West Kentucky and West Breckenridge streets, in 2014, and it is using raised funds to build the fields complex. Fundraising continues, and information on how to support the project is available on the Ninth Street: Field of Dreams page.

The fields complex is the latest example of Spalding’s initiative of transforming urban spaces, including ones covered with impervious surfaces, into community resources that beautify campus and the neighborhood. In 2017, Spalding transformed an unused 2.2-acre parking lot at the corner of S. Second and W. Kentucky streets into Trager Park, a public green space with 100 new trees. Other recently created green spaces include Mother Catherine Square in the center of campus.

“This is one of those projects you dream of not just as a president of a university or as a student but also as a mayor, to say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a great big green swath in our city, right here by Ninth Street, a gateway to the west, an extension to a college campus?’ It’s awesome, and it’s here,” Fischer said. “The persistence and the tenacity of Spalding that you all demonstrate each and every day has led to this tremendous announcement we have today. This is a wonderful thing.”

Fischer spoke at Spalding on the eve of the start of the mayor’s Give A Day week of service program, and he praised Spalding for becoming the world’s first certified compassionate university  and he noted that Spalding will be a partner with the city in the Lean Into Louisville program.

Fischer said the city celebrates “what Spalding has done for our city in terms of the soul of our city, the conscience of our city.”

“The Sisters at Spalding and the staff and faculty have really helped set the pace for so much of what we do,” Fischer said. “… Spalding is always there when it comes to making a statement, whether it comes to commemorating Muhammad Ali and the Columbia Gym, or Lean Into Louisville, or being a compassionate university, or in helping make our city an even more beautiful place. This complex is a great win for Spalding and a great win for our city.”

Schaefer Construction is the general contractor for the project. Sabak, Wilson and Lingo Inc. is Spalding’s architecture and civil engineering partner for the fields. Schaefer Construction also announced it is making a $50,000 donation to the fields project on Friday.

Other comments from Friday’s groundbreaking

*Mirza Ugarak, men’s soccer player: “The new sports facility will be a tremendous resource for current and future students to mature into adults who will make the world a better place.”

*Kayla Strehle, women’s soccer player: “Spalding has shown us all just how much it cares about women’s sports with two-thirds of this complex being dedicated to women’s teams.”

*Ally Klein, softball player: “Coming to Spalding has allowed me to build friendships with my teammates and create memories on the field that will last a lifetime. … Having our own field is honestly the one missing piece in what has been an amazing college athletic experience. … It’ll make us better students and better athletes and help bring our community together.”


Spalding University announced Wednesday, Sept. 5, that it has reached a milestone in its ongoing, largest-ever capital fundraising campaign: surpassing $30 million in total contributions since 2014. They have supported new construction projects, facility improvements and academic and scholarship programs that broadly impact campus and student life.

The $30.4 million raised to date is a record for a Spalding campaign, and it far outpaces the original fundraising goals – $20 million by 2020 – set by the university’s board of trustees when it voted to launch the campaign four years ago. The goal was officially upped to $30 million in 2016.

“We are extremely grateful for the individuals and organizations who have stepped forward in support of our campaign and the mission and progress of Spalding,” Chief Advancement Officer Bert Griffin said. “We’ve made improvements all over campus and have not used any tuition dollars to make it happen.”

Spalding President Tori Murden McClure added: “Through this campaign, we have provided our students and the community with more resources and services while making our campus greener and more beautiful. We are grateful to our many partners who are helping us meet the needs of the times and change our community for the better.”

Some highlights of the $30 million capital campaign:

● Nearly $11 million in student scholarships and fieldwork stipends have been or will be distributed by way of the campaign, including more than $4 million in federal grants for clinical psychology and social work students from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

● More than $7 million has been donated or pledged in support of a greening initiative that has beautified the 23-acre downtown campus. Completed projects include the Mother Catherine Spalding Square green space on West Breckenridge Street between South Third and South Fourth and 2.2-acre Trager Park, which, in partnership with Louisville Gas and Electric Company and the Trager Family Foundation, opened last fall at the corner of South Second and West Kentucky. The Trager Park site was formerly an unused asphalt lot.

Ongoing outdoor projects are the seven-acre athletic fields complex between South Eighth and South Ninth streets that will be the home of Spalding’s NCAA Division III softball and soccer teams, and the Contemplative Garden at Spalding University, which will be a meditation space at 828 S. Fourth St. that is designed to honor Trappist Monk Thomas Merton and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Thanks to a recent anonymous $500,000 challenge grant, installation of the playing surfaces at the fields complex is expected to begin this fall, and it could be ready for competition by late spring 2019.

FROM WHAS: Spalding works to build Ninth Street ‘Field of Dreams’

● Kosair Charities has contributed more than $1.2 million to Spalding in support of the Kosair Charities Enabling Technologies of Kentuckiana (enTECH) assistive-technology resource center, the Auerbach School of Occupational Therapy and the Spalding School of Nursing.

RELATED: Spalding, enTECH receive $275,000 grant from Kosair Charities

● A $500,000 challenge grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation has helped raise $1 million to develop programs focused on restorative justice and restorative practices as well as Spalding’s Center for Behavioral Health.

● Nearly $1 million was raised to renovate the lower level of the Columbia Gym into a student fitness center and lounge.

● Other facilities that have undergone major improvements and modern updates are the Republic Bank Academic Center, which is the home of Spalding’s nursing and social work programs; the Spalding Library; the historic Tompkins-Buchanan-Rankin Mansion; and the Egan Leadership Center Lectorium.

Spalding is working to build the fields of its dreams, and the Golden Eagles are looking for the support of Louisville’s leaders.

Louisville Metro Council representatives Rick Blackwell and Angela Leet, who are Spalding trustees, hosted fellow council members and trustees, as well as other government officials, on Thursday, March 15, for a progress update on the proposed Spalding athletic fields complex between South Eighth and South Ninth streets, about four blocks west of campus.

Spalding President Tori Murden McClure, Chief Advancement Officer Bert Griffin, Athletic Director Roger Burkman and architect Sabak, Wilson and Lingo gave presentations on the scope of the project, which will transform an abandoned 7.4-acre tract of asphalt into two soccer fields and one softball field for the NCAA Division III Golden Eagles.

Spalding, which announced the fields proposal in 2015 and wrapped up site preparation work last month, is making a fundraising push to get the project complete.

“From the Spalding side, obviously the project is very exciting and is more growth for Spalding,” Blackwell said. “From the city perspective, it’s really an opportunity as well. You’re taking something that was really an eye sore and turning it into something that’s a real treasure. We’re grateful for Spalding being able to do that, and hopefully we can have some city involvement as well to make it happen.”

University officials aren’t seeking public funding for the fields, but they sought Thursday to win the support of leaders to spread the word about the benefits of the project, which would create a large urban green space in the South of Broadway (SoBro) area and provide community access to high-quality sports facilities.

“When you have investment like this that happens in the community, other people are willing to start making investments,” Leet said. “As soon as you pick up something that looks like a blighted site and improve it and make it look like what it can be, others buy in and believe in that thought. They join the enthusiasm. And I believe this is the beginning of what will be.”


A true home field

The Spalding athletic fields project is seen as a game-changer, literally, for the school’s student-athletes.

The complex will provide on-campus home fields for the first time to the men’s and women’s soccer and softball teams. Lacrosse and field hockey programs could be started.

The soccer teams currently play at Champions Trace a few miles from campus and work their games and practices around the schedule of Collegiate High School, which is the primary tenant.

The softball team has moved home fields multiple times over the years and currently plays at Holy Cross High in Shively, about a 20-minute drive from Spalding. Again, the high school holds scheduling priority, so Spalding must work around it, sometimes leading to late-evening practices.

“It’s just going to help the overall student-athlete experience of the players on our team,” men’s soccer coach Adam Boyer said. “It will bring them closer to the university as a whole, to have their own facility they can call home.”

Spalding’s teams would be the primary tenants of the new fields, but the university plans to invite other school and club teams to rent them. The lighted, synthetic-turf fields would allow for year-round use. A fieldhouse with changing rooms and a concession stand is also planned.

“It’s an area (of downtown) that really kind of needs it,” Blackwell said, “and it’s really going to spur a lot of opportunities as well. Think about if you have not only Spalding activities but other activities during the summer. If you have two soccer fields, you have the opportunity to do some tournaments and have a lot of folks down here participating. That’ll spur opportunities for people to add amenities, restaurants and all kinds of other investments with it. That’s what we’re hoping for from the city side.”

Though Spalding was making its case to members of the Metro Council, the university is not asking for public money to help fund the project. McClure said the point of Thursday’s gathering was to provide information and encourage government leaders to express support for the project in their communities.

Spalding is hopeful that the city will eventually assist in safety and beautification work to the public spaces around the site, such as improving the sidewalks and street-lighting in the area.

McClure said that once Spalding raises all the money it needs, the fields could be completed in 3-4 months.

“Because we are a private university, it’s been a little more challenging to find those dollars,” said Leet, who chairs the Spalding board’s advancement committee. “So we’ve really had to work hard to find those community partners who believe in what we’re trying to accomplish here, who believe in the idea of improving the neighborhood.

“The beautiful thing of it is we have more than 20 trustees who have been on board for several years now with what we’re trying to accomplish, and they’ve been working hard to utilize their contacts and influence in their areas of expertise to try to make this happen. And I think that’s what we’re seeing here today.”

Greening initiative continues

The Spalding athletic fields complex is the latest – and largest – project in university’s greening initiative, which also included the creation of Mother Catherine Spalding Square in the center of campus in 2014 and the repurposing last fall of an abandoned asphalt lot into Trager Park at the corner of South Second and West Kentucky. (More than 100 trees are set to be planted this spring at Trager Park, a substantial addition to a neighborhood that has only a 9 percent tree canopy – below the 15 percent recommended for central business districts by American Forests.)

Like with those other greening projects, the fields complex would remove acres of impervious surfaces in SoBro and decrease the amount of stormwater that enters the city’s sewer system.

As an incentive, the Metro Sewer District has already approved about $250,000 in stipends to Spalding to complete the work, according to Sabak, Wilson and Lingo.

“There are some huge (greening) improvements that Spalding has already done. Those are really investments in the community,” said Blackwell, the president of DeSales High School who earned his master’s degree in religious studies from Spalding in 1995 and is now pursuing his doctorate of education in leadership at the school. “It makes us more believable when we talk about the (Spalding athletic fields) being a community investment because you’ve seen what Spalding has already invested in the community. This, too, will be not only for our athletes but for the community. It’s huge.”


Rendering of softball field
Rendering of softball field
Rendering of propose Spalding athletic complex fieldhouse
Rendering of fieldhouse
Rendering of overhead view of proposed Spalding athletic fields - two soccer fields and a softball field
Overhead rendering of full complex

In honoring the location on its campus where legendary heavyweight champion and humanitarian icon Muhammad Ali first learned to box in 1954, Spalding University announced that it has officially changed the name of its athletic and activities building back to Columbia Gym.

The announcement comes on Wednesday, Jan. 17, which would have been the Louisville native Ali’s 76th birthday.

Spalding President Tori Murden McClure said in 2016 that the board of trustees planned to change the name of the building at 824 S. Fourth Street from the Spalding University Center to Columbia Gym. That had been the name of the former boxing gym located in the lower level of the building that was run by Louisville police officer Joe Martin, who became Ali’s first trainer.

In a tale that has become a key piece of Louisville history, 12-year-old Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, attended a Louisville Service Club event at the building and parked his new red Schwinn bicycle outside. When he came back out, the bike had been stolen. An angry Clay informed Martin about the theft and told him that he planned to “whup” whoever took the bike.

Martin told Clay that before he tried to do that, he better learn to fight first, leading him to start training in the Columbia Gym and begin a storied amateur career.

Not long after Ali’s death in 2016, Spalding hung a replica of Ali’s red bicycle over the front entrance of the building to serve as a tribute to Ali and Martin’s first encounter.

“As Spalding continues its legacy of service and compassion, the red bike story and Columbia Gym remind us of Muhammad Ali’s triumphant career in and out of the ring,” McClure said. “On this, the Champ’s birthday, may we all look inward and seek our role in making the world a better place, following his remarkable example.”

The building houses the NCAA Division III Golden Eagles’ home basketball and volleyball court, a 2,400-seat venue that continues to be called Derek Smith Gymnasium. The university’s athletic offices and student fitness center, lounge and health clinic are in the lower level where Martin’s Columbia Gym once was. There is also a ballroom and auditorium in the building.

A series of photo panels have been recently placed on the wall in the lower level of the building that detail Ali’s history there and with Spalding, and photos and inspirational quotes from Ali help decorate the facility.

“Our students are motivated daily by the history that began here with the red bike story,” Spalding athletic director Roger Burkman said. “It should inspire us all to not only compete at our highest level but also to serve others at an equally high level.”

Spalding acquired the building years after Ali trained there, but he had other ties to the school. As a teenager, he worked across the street from Columbia Gym in Spalding’s library, and he maintained a lifelong friendship with members of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who ran the college.

In addition, McClure is an Ali family friend and was an early employee of the Muhammad Ali Center. A year ago on Ali’s birthday, Spalding announced the creation of the Muhammad Ali Scholars program, which awards about $1.2 million of need-based scholarships every year.The Ali Scholarship provides traditional, first-year students up to $5,000 per year of assistance to attend the school. It’s renewable for up to $20,000 over four years.

Related: Spalding’s official athletics website

Photo panels displaying the history of Muhammad Ali's red bike story and his ties to Spalding.
A series of photo panels in the lower level of Columbia Gym detail Muhammad Ali’s famous red bike story and his ties to Spalding.

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.”

Plaque Trager Park Est. 2017The 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 Breckinridge 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.