Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
KFC Yum! Center 1 Arena Plaza Louisville, KY 40202
Year Opened: 2010
At the Corner of Basketball and Bourbon
The city of Louisville, Kentucky, jumped to the forefront of college basketball arenas when they opened up the KFC Yum! Center in October of 2010. With over 22,000 seats inside the venue, the KFC Yum! Center is the fifth-largest college basketball facility in terms of seating capacity.
What makes the home of the University of Louisville Cardinals men’s and women’s basketball team one of the best facilities in the nation is the wide variety of amenities that can be found in all areas of the facility.
In 2021, the arena received $8 million worth of renovations that included 12,000 square feet of LED and a new center-hung video board that is three times the size of the original one. The renovations also included improved audio and broadcast upgrades, updated concession stands, and 130,000 square feet of carpeting in 75 premium suites, 70 premium boxes, and other lounges.
The KFC Yum! Center is surrounded by 4,200 hotel rooms as well as many attractions in Downtown Louisville such as 4th Street Live, which can be reached directly from the KFC Yum! Center with Louisville’s skywalk system.
Food & Beverage 5
There are plenty of menu options beyond the standard Taco Bell, KFC, and Papa John’s varieties inside the arena. The arena has over 59 concession stands sprinkled throughout the concourses. There are kiosks offering food and drink, designated areas sponsored by local distilleries, and plenty of KFC Yum! brands from Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC.
The visually-pleasing KFC and Pizza Hut areas offer fried chicken, boneless chicken wings, and personal pan pizzas. However, check out the Haute Dog location that offers Chicago and Chili-cheese dogs, along with kettle chips and bavarian pretzels. The Farmstead stands have burgers, chicken tender baskets, grilled chicken sandwiches, and black bean burgers. They are sold individually or with season fries and a drink as a value meal.
The grab-and-go section features beer, soda, chips, and candy for quick transactions. The building also includes several kiosks that serve cheesesteaks, barbecue nachos, roasted nuts, popcorn, skinny chips, and kielbasa sandwiches. Other kiosks house locally made beer from Rhinegiest (Cincinnati) and Country Boy (Lexington). The Kentucky Ale Taproom is detectable by its luminescent red lighting and draft beer selection.
Heaven Hill and Rabbit Hole Distilleries have their little nook on the concourse level. The Rabbit Hole location is a vast and old airport terminal, featuring a spacious bar and even a spacious window view of the Ohio River. It is a quiet place for a drink but is boisterous during halftime. Heaven Hill is also a pleasant spot to enjoy a drink, but much smaller in size.
KFC Yum! The Center is not your typical college venue. The sounds of 22,000 screaming fans, the areas to enjoy a glass of wine, beer, or bourbon, and the various spots to look around are all top-notch. It can be quite an experience in comparison to many other collegiate venues across the land.
There are many points of interest along the concourses of the arena. The Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame features legends of all sports with ties to the state. The main entrance features photos and images of the basketball program and also houses the official team shop. One of the best features is the wide-open windows that let patrons gaze upon the Ohio River and the many bridges that cross the mighty river.
View from Windows at KFC Yum! Center, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
The arena may be the selling point of the visit, but the star of the show is the Louisville men’s basketball program. The team’s rich history is on display from the championship banners, retired uniform numbers, and photos of past players and coaches. It is a carefully crafted entertainment complex that should appeal to a multitude of basketball fans, concertgoers, and casual sports fans.
There are plenty of entertainment options before or after the game within blocks of the KFC Yum! Center. Directly across the street in Whiskey Row is the Troll Pub that serves typical pub fare, but in a dungeon-like atmosphere where you can also take a picture with the ceramic troll on your way to the game. Adjacent to the Troll Bar is the Sidebar, where bourbon and bourbon-inspired cocktails are in fashion.
A few steps down the street are two local favorites for pizza and Southern cooking: Impellizzeri’s Pizza and Doc Crow’s. A short walk away from the venue is multiple museums that range from the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Louisville Slugger Museum, Kentucky Science Center, and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. There is a lot to do in one day or a weekend, and that’s just on Main Street in downtown Louisville.
The entertainment area, 4th Street Live provides plenty of excitement at night. Fans can enjoy the Ohio River at Louisville’s many riverfront parks, which is home to the AAA Louisville Bats, or take in a mid-sized event at historic Freedom Hall – the current home to Bellarmine Knights basketball games.
Louisville fans regularly pack the mammoth arena and have been ardent supporters of the Cards for decades. The fans are intelligent, loud, and loyal to their basketball program. With the amount of money that has been poured into the new facility, they are a very happy group of Cardinal fans. Louisville is one of only three college programs to average over 20,000 fans per game, with Syracuse and Kentucky ranking one and two.
The only blemish with attending a Louisville basketball game is the gridlock one will likely experience when arriving at the game. The downtown venue can feature some headaches for drivers. If not familiar with the area, you may find yourself stuck behind lines of cars on the busy streets outside the arena. Be sure to allow yourself extra time.
The parking lots cost between $10-$15 at most city lots. If you are lucky, you might be able to find free parking on the street, depending on the day and time. Also of note, there is a toll road over I-65 when crossing the Ohio River from Indiana. The cost is anywhere between $2.21 (transponder) to $4.42 (mail by plate), but if you want to save money, use the US-31 bridge for free access to downtown. It also drops you off in front of the arena and parking lots.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices will vary depending on who the Cards are playing and when making your purchase. At this time, upcoming games start at $20 plus fees, while a game against Duke begins at $49 with fees. If you know when you are attending a game, buy your tickets early. However, KFC Yum! Center and the city of Louisville are worth making a trip for any sports fan looking for a great destination city.
There are quite a few extras at the KFC Yum! Center, and it is a center for entertainment. The first star is for the aesthetically pleasing concession areas, bars, and decorative windows that open up the venue to the downtown surroundings. The arena receives another star for being close to many downtown Louisville tourist spots, restaurants, and bars. One star for all of the history on display for this great program. The last star is for the overall experience one should enjoy while attending a basketball game.
The KFC Yum! Center is not only a magnificent college arena but an ideal home for a professional basketball team for the city. Many multi-purpose arenas might appear similar, but the Yum Center has an identity all its own. Its proximity to numerous eateries, landmarks, and tourist destinations easily propel a Cardinals game for a perfect day, night, or weekend visit for the sports traveler.