KFC Yum! Center – Louisville Cardinals
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 arena, 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. The long list of amenities include: 2,084 club seats, 72 luxury suites, four club lounges, four party suites, four meeting rooms, five auxiliary locker rooms, 5-star dressing rooms, 27 permanent concession stands (with 32 portable temporary stands), a 2,500 square foot Cardinal Authentic team store, a practice court, and a 760-car underground parking garage. Because of these premier amenities, the KFC Yum! Center has been selected by the NCAA to be a host site for the first two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2012.
One amenity that makes the KFC Yum Center! unique is the northern side of its lower level. In this area, guests can enjoy an 8,750 square foot sports bar, three concession stands that consist of Yum brands KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, and a public food court area that gives fans a breath-taking view of the Ohio River.
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. If 4th Street Live isn’t enough excitement, fans can take in the Ohio River at Louisville’s many riverfront parks, visit Louisville Slugger Field which is home to the AAA Louisville Bats, or take in a mid-sized event at legendary Freedom Hall- the former home to Louisville Cardinals basketball games.
Food & Beverage 5
There are plenty of menu options that go beyond the standard Taco Bell, KFC, and Papa John’s varieties inside the arena. There is over 59 concession stands sprinkled throughout the concourses. Some of the featured favorites worth trying include skinny skin potato chips with various toppings (think of it as a take on the nacho), fried hot brown bites, Heartland pot roast sandwich, and Philly cheesesteaks. What is even better are prices that do not hurt your wallet. For example, the skinny skins are a bargain starting at $5.
There are plenty of options to wet your whistle that includes the Miller Lite Lounge, Kentucky Ale Taproom, the Burnett’s Lounge, and the Evan Williams Bourbon Bar. The Bourbon Bar resembles an old airport terminal, featuring a spacious bar and even a spacious window view of the Ohio River. During the game, it is quiet and settled, but at halftime it is jam-packed. The Kentucky Ale House glitters in red lights and feels more like an area in a local club than a sporting arena.
All of the drinking spots have their own charm and ambiance that feel a lot more welcoming than functional. The average basketball fan, if one exists in the state of Kentucky, should enjoy their time sipping on bourbon or a mixed drink in of these designated spots inside the KFC Yum! Center.
KFC Yum! 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.
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, concert goers, 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 the Main Street in downtown Louisville.
A little bit further away from the arena are a few other local establishments offering scratch-cooked food from barbecue, burgers, and hot chicken. FABD Smokehouse offers traditional barbecue plus a broad libations menu in rustic digs with free miniature golf. Grind Burger Kitchen piles burgers high with toppings served in a cozy, modern space with craft beer on tap. Royal Hot Chicken serves Nashville style hot chicken, Southern sides & boozy milkshakes in an easygoing atmosphere.
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 respectively).
The only blemish with attending a Louisville basketball game is the gridlock one will likely experience when arriving at the game. It should be expected that a downtown venue would feature some headaches for drivers, but if you are not familiar with the area, you may find yourself stuck behind lines of cars or sifting through construction areas. Be sure to allow yourself extra time.
The parking lots cost between $10-$15. If you are lucky, you might be able to find free parking on the street.
Return on Investment 4
All tickets for games are $51, with prices slightly higher against in-state rivals Kentucky. It is sort of a unique ticketing price point, since the Cards could extract more from its population base. The concept has been successful, since the team has finished third in attendance the past five seasons.
There are quite a few extras at the KFC Yum! Center, and it is definitely 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 venue 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 overall experience one should enjoy while attending a basketball game.
The KFC Yum! Center is not only a magnificent college arena, but it would be ideal for a professional basketball team for the city. There are many multi-purpose arenas that look alike, but the Yum Center has an identity all its own.
Food and Drink Recommendations
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
800 W Main St,
Louisville, KY 40202
SpringHill Suites by Marriott Louisville Downtown
132 E Jefferson St
Louisville, KY 40202
Latest Crowd Reviews
Almost seemed more like a pro venue than a college venue. Offers more comfort than most college venues and still has a solid college atmosphere. The band is great and the team always seems to be competitive. However, worst corporate arena name going!