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From peanut butter factory to soccer pitch

November 21, 2014  - By

The University of Louisville hosts its first postseason game at Lynn Stadium.

lynn_stadiumWhat once was the site of a peanut butter factory will proudly host its first men’s NCAA tournament soccer game this Sunday.

At the University of Louisville, Coach Ken Lolla and his 10-7-3 soccer team will take on the winner of the St. Louis/Tulsa game this Sunday at 6 p.m. in what will be the first postseason game at the new Lynn Stadium, a 5,300-seat stadium that is one of the newest, and finest, collegiate soccer stadiums in the country. The Cardinals soccer team averaged a crowd of 3,000-plus this season, second only to UC Santa Barbara.

“This will be one of the nicest collegiate — if not professional — soccer facilities in the United States,” Mike Winkenhofer, director of grounds for the University of Louisville, told Athletic Turf when we visited in August. “We spent a lot of time and money and effort building this stadium. At the University of Louisville we don’t do anything second class… it’s first class or nothing.”

The stadium sits on a site that was previously a parking lot for the nearby football stadium, and before that, a peanut butter factory. With the success of the men’s soccer program, and the rising popularity of the sport, the site was selected to house the new soccer facility. Ground was broken in June of 2013. The first home game was played there in August.

Winkenhofer has been working for the university since 1998, when he took a job there because he needed an internship. Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was being constructed at the time, and the internship turned into a full-time job.

“Wink,” who was a football kicker in his college days at Western Kentucky University, received a B.S. in recreation and park management at WKU, followed by a turfgrass management degree at the same school. While working at Louisville, he took night classes to earn a master’s in recreation and park management.

In 2006, he was promoted to his current position and is responsible for 12 acres of athletics fields and 35 acres of common areas. He keeps a staff of 5 full-timers, and 5 to 6 seasonal employees during the growing season.

From softball to tennis, field hockey to the indoor aquatic center, the entire athletic field operation at Louisville falls under his watch. But right now, there is a special excitement for the Cardinals’ first postseason game on the new pitch at Lynn Stadium.

“Being able to be part of the first postseason game in Lynn Stadium history is special,” Coach Lolla recently told the Courier-Journal. “We understand the importance of that. …Playing at home is a huge advantage for us. Our guys like playing at Lynn.”

“They wanted to build a new soccer stadium because our team has done so well,” Winkenhofer says. “And this is what you end up with — one of the nicest stadiums in the country.”

View the video below for a virtual tour of some of the Louisville Cardinals’ sports facilities.

Photo: Seth Jones

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About the Author:

Seth Jones, an 18-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association.

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