freedomhall

We'll Sort Of Miss You, Freedom Hall: Thoughts On Louisville's Moving-Out Party

Freedom Hall has been home to the Louisville Cardinals since 1956. On Saturday at 2:00 EST, Louisville will play its final game in the building against top-ranked Syracuse. SBN weekend editor Jon Bois explores what an arena should mean to its fans.

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We'll Sort Of Miss You, Freedom Hall: Thoughts On Louisville's Moving-Out Party

On Saturday, the Louisville Cardinals will play in Freedom Hall for the last time ever. It will be an appropriate send-off, to be sure - the Cardinals, whose tournament fate is still in jeopardy, will try to upset top-ranked Syracuse for the second time this season.

I'd like to bring a quote from Rick Pitino to your attention.

"It's a fitting close to a great place," Pitino said. "I think the two greatest places in college basketball are Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas plays, and Freedom Hall. It's Wrigley field. It's Fenway Park. It's the most charming, cozy place in basketball."

Do not believe this man.

Freedom Hall, the building, is geographically isolated and bereft of character - two qualities that are uncommon in a college basketball arena. From the outside, it looks like an airplane hangar. It isn't on campus; rather, it was slapped together in a massive concrete desert south of downtown. The desert, which stretches for miles, is home to an expo center, a Six Flags that just went out of business, an airport, and a seldom-used mixed-use stadium. I'm saying that whenever I go there, I experience the urge to take a bunch of high-contrast black-and-white photos, caption them with lower-case pithy descriptors, and post them on my blog (which is probably named "s e e i n g  t h e  w o r l d" or something equally banal).

Remember fifth period in high school, when you wanted to grab a seat next to the wall so you could lean against it and try to fall asleep? Freedom Hall is made entirely of that wall. It is cold cinder blocks, painted hastily with a glossy finish.

Check out the building's facade.

Freedomhall_medium


"Freedom Hall." Is...is that Arial font? Of all the sports venues in the United States, Freedom Hall is surely the easiest to draw in MS Paint. My God, this building is boring. I do not know who designed it but I will bet you ten dollars that his favorite dish was oatmeal.

If you're the sentimental sort, though, none of this really has to matter. Some of the truest moments of nostalgia take place in some of the blandest environments. Do you remember the first time you picked up a football and finally figured out how to throw a spiral? You were probably in an unevenly-mowed, divot-riddled excuse for a field outside your elementary school. Freedom Hall is a lot like that. In this wholly unspectacular building, the Louisville Cardinals played for fifty-four years and two national championships. It's also played host to the ABA's Kentucky Colonels, arena football, AHL hockey, a few Final Four championships, AC/DC, people in cowboy hats attempting to ride animals that didn't seem to be having much fun, and Miley Cyrus. As a friend once said, "it ain't the paper, it's the pen." His weird, context-free jingoisms come in handy sometimes.

There are memories in this place. Look no further than our Louisville blog, Card Chronicle, which over the last few days has opened the floor to sentimental fans. One fan remembers the time his high school self went sneaking around in Freedom Hall and found its attic. Another associates the building with memories of his father. Still another recalls the night Boo Brewer set the record for most threes in a game.

This sentiment isn't exclusive to Louisville fans, of course. Plenty of other fan bases have experienced their greatest sports memories in boring, bland stadiums that were build in the 1950s or '60s. The Braves' late Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium is one example. It only survived thirty-one years before being demolished, but the parking lot that stands where it used to be is sufficient proof that the building itself is not important. Wander through the lot for a while and you'll see a painted spot commemorating where Hank Aaron's 715th home run sailed over the fence. The stadium is gone; the importance isn't.

Unlike Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Freedom Hall isn't being demolished. It'll stand for at least a little while longer. Maybe I'll go there to watch a tractor pull (ironically, you guys!), and I'll laugh at a guy on a tractor and think, "That's where Edgar Sosa did something even funnier." In the meantime, the Cardinals will tip off against No. 1 Syracuse. The list of things I will give a crap about at 2:00 will be very, very short, and Freedom Hall nostalgia will not be on it.

Farewell, serviceable multipurpose sporting venue.

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