What better place to start the landmark edition of Sports Legends of the Ville than Freedom Hall? Opened in 1956, Freedom Hall was a building that was beyond it’s time. Ironically though, the building itself didn’t open to house basketball games; as so many remember it today.
It was actually built to house the World’s Championship Horse Show during the Kentucky State Fair. A horse show still operates in that building annually, almost a tribute to the venue.
Basketball didn’t become synonymous with the landmark until 1984, after some remodeling. Almost instantly it was clear that Freedom Hall looked great on sports television, which was a noticeably smaller proposition in the mid-80’s than it is today. Because it lent itself so well to cameras though, the Louisville Cardinals, who would call it home for years started appearing more and more on TV’s across the country.
Of course, prior to that came the ABA powerhouse, Kentucky Colonels who played in the Hall from 1968 until the ABA’s eventual disbanding in 1976, some still argue that the Colonels should be in the NBA today, but instead the Denver Nuggets got that spot.
Hockey has actually had a pretty storied past in the venue as well, prior to the Colonels arrival the Louisville Rebels of the International Hockey League had a three year run between 1957 to 1960, nearly forty years later in 1999 hockey returned with the Louisville Panthers, of the Arena Hockey League. Despite relatively strong initial interest the team folded in 2001.
Football also found its place there with the arena football team, the Louisville Fire, which began in 2001. Founded by local sports icon Will Wolford, the Fire saw relatively solid attendance numbers throughout their run but after mounting financial woes they were forced to call it quits in 2008.
Then, two years later the University of Louisville would famously leave the Hall, but in that time the Hall hosted six NCAA men’s basketball tournaments, one women’s basketball tournament, and one Big East/SEC invitational tournament.
Today the hall famously still hosts a number of events including an annual horse show during the Kentucky state fair.
Image courtesy of Kentucky Fair and Expo Center
Outside source info courtesy of Wikipedia