Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is home to the Louisville Cardinals football program. The stadium is located off of Interstate 65 and is located near Churchill Downs. Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium originally seated 42,000 but has since expanded to 55,000 to accommodate the growing success of the football program. Originally built at a cost of $63 million, it fulfilled a dream that was first envisioned by former Cardinal Coach Howard Schnellenberger in 1985. It was then renovated during the off season of 2008-2009 at a cost of $72 million that saw the inclusion of an elevated south end terrace connecting the east and west sides of the stadium, 33 additional suites, 1,725 additional club seats, and an additional 13,000 chair back seats.
In August of 2015, university officials approved a future expansion which will add another 10,000 seats to the north end of the stadium. The expansion will enclose the north end of the stadium as well as add more premium seating areas. The move to the ACC has fueled fan interest and this is a good sign of things to come for the Louisville program.
Louisville football is a great story of success that has risen from humble beginnings. The Cardinals football team had a history of spotty success over the years. They spent a lot of time as an independent in the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s before joining Conference USA. As an independent, they scheduled teams from coast to coast with mixed results. After years of steady improvement, Louisville made several bowl appearances year after year. They joined the Big East in 2005 and enjoyed their best season in 2006 with an Orange Bowl win. The football version of the Big East was disbanded leaving Louisville in the American Athletic Conference for a year before joining the ACC. There is a great sense of pride amongst Louisville residents, alumni, and fans on joining a power five football conference. This pride can be sensed driving into town as there are billboards twenty miles out with the Cardinals logo and ACC territory mentioned on signs.
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There are plenty of food choices inside the stadium that should appeal to all taste buds. To start off with you can find a personal pizza from Papa John's ($7.50). The Fischer's concession stand offers hot dogs ($4.25), hot dog nacho ($8), and super nachos ($6.25). The hot dog nacho is a unique food item and is a must have here. Cheese, chili hot dog meat, and nacho chips are included in this dish. There are cheesesteaks sandwiches for $6.50, cheesesteak nachos ($8), and bratwurst ($6).
Mixed drinks ($6.25), beer ($6.00 - $6.75), and wine ($6.50) are available as well. Alcohol at collegiate games is becoming more commonplace. That being said, if there is a college football stadium that has more booze stands, I'd like to see it. You can't do a 360 degree turn on the concourse without finding an open stand somewhere. Because of this, lines are short.
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium offers many stand alone concession and souvenir areas for fans wanting a quick purchase without waiting in a longer line. Because of this, the concourses are easy to navigate.
If you are a fan of the other white meat, one concession booth sells all pork products that include a pork chop sandwich ($7.50), barbecue sandwich ($6.50), baked country ham ($6.50), and pork burger for ($6.50). There are also kettle corn and lemonade stands throughout the main concourse.
For dessert there are waffle cone banana splits ($7), sundaes, ($4.50), the crunch zone float (red cream soda and vanilla ice cream), and on those cold fall nights, you can grab a cup of hot chocolate ($3).
The folks at the U of L do a very nice job of creating a college town atmosphere in the major city of Louisville. The various lots surrounding the stadium and beyond are packed with revelers grilling, drinking, tossing the pigskin, and preparing for the game. For fans of free items (and who isn't), there is a row of vendors near the east side of the stadium passing out freebies and chances to win coupons.
The adjacent lots are close to the stadium and feature the red press row called The Card March and a collection of completely furnished train cabooses that can be rented on game day. The Card March happens a couple of hours before kickoff and is a can't miss event. For those that want the total college football experience, this will get you in the mood for some tailgating and football. The Cardinals band, cheer/dance teams, and players walk from a couple blocks away into the stadium. Fans are able to give players and coaches high fives as they walk in.
Throughout the area the marching band is preparing for the contest, cheerleaders are greeting cars in the lots, and a few folks strike up conversations waiting in line for portable toilets. Fans also may park a bit further away from the main lots, creating a sea of red for a mile all around Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Louisville is a fantastic city to visit and its many neighborhoods offer something for everyone, but when you are at a Cardinal game you are somewhat removed from these areas. The area around the stadium borders the various sports facilities of the university, the state fairgrounds, and the interstate. It is a safe neighborhood that swells in population before and after football contests. However, one will need to hop in their car and visit a few of the favorite spots in downtown and Bardstown Road.
If you find yourself in downtown, you are within walking distance of 4th Street Live which offers bars, restaurants and dance clubs under a covered, pedestrian street. Many, if not all, of the establishments are chain franchises, but Gordon Biersch, and Tengo Sed Cantina are fun places to end your night after the game. If you are in the mood for dancing, then head upstairs to The Marquee Bar or PBR Louisville.
A few miles down the road, a little more eclectic selection of cuisine can be found on Bardstown Road. Enjoy a great California Common Beer at the Cumberland Brewery, find excellent barbecue at Mark's Feed Store Bar-B-Que, simple grilled cheese sandwiches at Tom+Chee, or Thai/Vietnamese fare at La Que. There are many great small bars, pizza shops, and mom and pop stores along this road as well. If you haven't been to Louisville, allow yourself plenty of extra time to explore this wonderful city.
There are quite a few hotels adjacent to the stadium. For a total Louisville experience, consider staying downtown and driving to the game.
The Cardinal faithful do not stand out as being much different from the rest of the college football world. There are a few traditions including a chant on every first down, and the Card March is two hours prior to kick-off with both players and coaches greeted by fans as they walk through the tunnel leading to the stadium.
The marching band plays an array of fight songs to welcome the team. It is hard to spot a person not wearing a red shirt or jacket and the place is packed for home football games.
The stadium is located almost directly off the interstate with plenty of signs to get you there. Arrive early though, since traffic can build up upon entering the exit ramp. Congestion can commence 2-3 hours before kickoff. Traffic does move slow and steady, but start looking for parking lots as soon as you can find a spot. My suggestion if you are willing to walk a mile is the five dollar lots northeast of the stadium. There, you will find businesses and a school with ample parking. From here, you can get the total experience as you will be walking to the stadium and past the tailgating scene. For those that don't mind paying for parking or are looking to set up their tailgate spread, there are lots adjacent to the stadium for $25. These lots are where most of the tailgating scene is.
The good part about the stadium being off the highway is how easy it is to find it. The bad part is the amount of traffic before and after the game. Be patient when leaving. Traffic flows reasonably well, but there is still a lot of congestion. Once you are on a main road or the highway, it will be smooth sailing.
Louisville sells out on a regular basis, but ticket prices are fair for the game day experience and the product on the field. The food and drink is on par with most college football stadiums. As with anything, you get what you pay for. If you like to save money, you can still have a lot of fun for very little. The freebies during the pregame from vendors makes some of your money back.
The drink and food selection at the stadium is top notch and reasonable in price. It almost feels as if you're at a minor league ballpark with the concession choices from pork sandwiches to cheesesteak nachos. If you leave hungry, do not blame the university.
Be sure to stop by the Schellenberger complex to see the Johnny Unitas statue. Unitas is the most famous player in Louisville's football history, and his number 16 is the only number to have been retired at Louisville.
One final point for the Louisville athletic department which has devoted considerable resources in helping make Louisville much more than just a basketball school. This is evident in the amount of university and civic pride that is promoted here. Aside from the university students and alumni, there is a true sense of city and regional pride here. Posters and advertisements can be seen from miles away. If you live in Louisville, you now have ACC powers such as Clemson, Florida State, and the University of Miami coming through town.
Louisville's ascension to a power conference in football proves that the school is committed to not being just a basketball school. The move to the ACC is paying huge dividends amongst their entire athletic department. The football game day experience is getting better each year. Further expansion to the stadium will satisfy the growing fan base and put the stadium on par with other power five facilities. The campus is nice and Louisville is a great city to visit.
Since 1998, Papa John's Cardinal Stadium has served as the home to the University of Louisville Cardinal's football team. Its construction and subsequent opening was greeted with a warm welcome as Old Cardinal Stadium was starting to show its age. The Cardinals originally elected to name the facility after its predecessor, and then tacked on Papa John's once Papa John's founder John Schnatter, a native of nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana, donated $5 million.
Since the stadium was built, the Cardinals have watched their football program take a drastic rise to the top. Due to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the Cardinals were able to generate funding to improve both their football facilities as well as their athletic department in general. As a result, U of L was able to upgrade from Conference USA to the Big East Conference in 2005. In 2007, the Cardinals appeared in and won the Orange Bowl, an accomplishment that previously wouldn't have been possible in Conference USA.
With the overwhelming success of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the Cardinals decided to expand the facility from 2008 to 2010 to increase capacity from 42,000 to 55,000 seats. The expansion entailed adding an upper level and 33 suites to the east side of the stadium. Currently, Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is about 92% full on the average game day.
One of the premier aspects of the design is its history with the land which originally was the South Louisville Rail Yard, a historic rail car repair shop. The factory's shift horn was saved and installed in the stadium's north end zone scoreboard and sounds every time the Cardinals score. There are also multiple cabooses that tailgaters can rent on game days.
One of the best close to campus (might as well be on campus) stadiums around. There is not a bad seat in the house and the fans are on the TRAIN. One of the nicest places to watch a game period. Every seat has a seat back, all 58k of them. Two large jumbotrons and a nice mid level terrace. Just a good job all around. Did I say beer and mixed drinks as well?
PPJ is a nice, functional stadium, but I didn't see anything special about it. It's disconnected from the campus, bordered on the east by an interstate, and the road along side it is rather dreary.
My lower level corner seats were so far away from the action, I didn't feel part of it. The Cardinals were having a down year, so the fans were very quiet and began leaving after half time, despite the close game. This was interesting because they didn't stop arriving until the end of the first quarter.
I parked fairly far away from the stadium and it was a good 20 minute walk.
Great atmosphere and stadium has extremely good sight lines, meaning there really isn't a bad seat.
Physically, the stadium is very nice. Chairback seats throughout the stadium make it comfortable and the sight lines are excellent. there are literally countless concessions, but that is an issue. If you're looking for a party, thisis a great facility. If you want to watch football, it's just boring. The fans are incredibly intoxicated, show up late, never leave teh bars and "club" like areas, and have little interest in the product on the field. It's like a strange social gathering for area residents.
It's also not in a nice area of the town. I moved here two years ago, and the area around the campus and the stadium is generally considered dangerous, run-down, and frightening by most city residents.
So, again, the phyical structure is a fine, if uninspiring stadium compared to some of hte calssic or large stadiums of power programs. But the atmosphere lags considerably behind that of most serious college programs.
Crowds sometimes show up late and leave early depending on opponent, but the crowd is amazing for big games. Easily accessible and not a bad seat in the house.
Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is home to the Louisville Cardinals football program and was one of the last college venues built in the 20th century, replacing the aging Cardinal Stadium at the Fairgrounds. The stadium originally seated 42,000 upon its opening in 1998, but has since expanded to 55,000 to accommodate the success of the football program.
Originally built at a cost of $63 million, it fulfilled a dream that was first envisioned by former Cardinal Coach Howard Schnellenberger in 1985. It was then renovated during the off season of 2008-2009 at a cost of $72 million that saw the inclusion of an elevated south-end terrace connecting the east and west sides of the stadium, 33 additional suites, 1,725 additional club seats, and an additional 13,000 chairback seats.
Upon its completion, the program rose from mediocrity to a football powerhouse. Where would the Cardinal football program be without the facility, one could only theorize, but Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium has been an integral part to the success and evolution of the football team. The games are sold out, and the team battles for conference titles and has appeared in nine bowl games in the stadium’s first 15 seasons. There had only been two bowl appearances the previous 15 years.
I have never visited Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, but I have passed by it on I-65, plus have seen pictures of the interior in Sports Illustrated, so I wrote this to say of you ever do go, I think you should check out the Dean's Milk Jug ads on the sides of the scoreboard. They just are neat little things. I know, I know: It sounds a little artificial to use pictures as evidence to back me up, but I think those things are nice.
Louisville have moved up a lot from where they used to be, and now have a pretty solid FBS program. Stadium is really nice also, not too too big with some nice features. The most memorable thing to me were the large grassy areas outside the stadium proper (but still inside the gates) where you could go hang out during half time, maybe throw a ball around.
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