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Sports in Louisville, Kentucky facts for kids

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Sports in Louisville, Kentucky include amateur and professional sports in baseball, football, horse racing, horse shows, ice hockey, soccer and lacrosse. The city of Louisville and the Louisville metropolitan area have a sporting history from the mid-19th century to the present day.

Louisville slugger field evening 2002
Louisville Slugger Field, where the Louisville Bats play

Horse racing and equestrian events

Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby, the largest sports event in the state, as well as the Kentucky Oaks, which together cap the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. Churchill Downs has also hosted the renowned Breeders' Cup on eight occasions, most recently in 2011, and will next host the event in 2018.

Besides racing there is the World's Championship Horse show. This show is mostly for Saddlebred horses and is held in conjunction with the Kentucky State Fair. This is the premier event of the year for Saddle seat Pleasure and Equitation.

Annual competitions

Since 2007, Louisville has been host to the annual Ironman Louisville triathlon in August, one of only eight Ironman events in North America. In 2009, 2,352 participants finished the course.

In early 2012, Louisville became the first American city to ever host the UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships, and the following year became the first American city to host the Masters, Juniors, U23, and Professionial Elite Women's and Men's UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, the biggest races of the fastest growing form of bicycle racing. The event was held at a new permanent cyclocross course at Eva Bandman Park.

Historical teams

Louisville long ago hosted teams in the National Football League and Major League Baseball and fielded a strong franchise, the Kentucky Colonels, in the American Basketball Association before the ABA–NBA merger in June 1976. The Colonels won the penultimate ABA championship in 1975, defeating their archrival, the Indiana Pacers, in the 1975 ABA Finals.

The Kentucky Colonels were the winningest team in the history of the American Basketball Association, but the Colonels were not included in the ABA–NBA merger in June 1976. A later team with the same name played in Louisville in the ABA 2000 league but moved to Murray, Kentucky in 2007 before folding. Louisville and the corporate community had also attempted to pursue the Vancouver Grizzlies franchise before their ultimate move to Memphis in 2001, as well as the Charlotte Hornets franchise, which ultimately moved to New Orleans in 2002 but was revived in 2004 as the Charlotte Bobcats, regaining the Hornets name and the team's pre-relocation history in 2014.

Another soccer team, the Louisville Lightning, played indoor soccer in the Professional Arena Soccer League from 2009 to 2012 before folding. The city was home to two professional ice hockey teams in the East Coast Hockey League, from 1990 to 1994 the Louisville Icehawks, followed by the Louisville RiverFrogs from 1995 to 1998. The city also had an American Hockey League team from 1999 to 2001, the Louisville Panthers.

Club Sport Played League Venue
Louisville Grays Baseball 1876–1878 National League Various
Louisville Eclipse Baseball 1882–1884 American Association Eclipse Park
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1884–1891 American Association Various
Louisville African Americans Baseball 1887 League of Colored Baseball Players Various
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1891–1899 National League Eclipse Park
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1901 Western Association Various
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1901–1962 American Association Eclipse Park and Parkway Field
Louisville Brecks Football 1921–1923 National Football League Various
Louisville Colonels Football 1926 National Football League Various
Louisville Bourbons Football 1931–1936 American Football League (1934)  
Louisville Tanks Football 1935–1939 Midwest Football League,
Midwest Professional Football League,
American Professional Football League
Parkway Field
Louisville Colonels Basketball 1947–1948 Professional Basketball League of America unknown
Louisville Blades Ice hockey 1948–1950 International Hockey League
United States Hockey League
Louisville Gardens
Louisville Buckeyes Baseball 1949–1950 Negro League Various
Louisville Alumnites Basketball 1950–1951 National Professional Basketball League Unknown
Louisville Shooting Stars Ice hockey 1953–1954 International Hockey League Louisville Gardens
Louisville Rebels Ice hockey 1957–1960 International Hockey League Louisville Gardens
Freedom Hall
Louisville Raiders Football 1960–1962 United Football League Cardinal Stadium
Kentucky Colonels Basketball 1967–1976 American Basketball Association Convention Center and Freedom Hall
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1968–1972 International League Cardinal Stadium
Kentucky Bourbons Softball 1977–1982 American Professional Slow Pitch League,
North American Softball League,
United Professional Softball League
Bishop David Stadium
Kentucky Trackers Football 1979–1980 American Football Association Cardinal Stadium
Louisville Redbirds Baseball 1982–1998 American Association Cardinal Stadium
Louisville Catbirds Basketball 1983–1985 Continental Basketball Association Louisville Gardens
Louisville Thunder Soccer 1984–1987 American Indoor Soccer Association Broadbent Arena
Louisville Bulls Football 1988–2011 Hearts of Ohio Football League,
Mid-Continental Football League,
Elite Mid-Continental Football League
Louisville Icehawks Ice hockey 1990–1995 East Coast Hockey League Broadbent Arena
Louisville Shooters Basketball 1991–1993 Global Basketball Association Louisville Gardens
Louisville Thoroughbreds Soccer 1994–1995 USISL / USISL Pro League
Louisville RiverFrogs Ice hockey 1995–1998 East Coast Hockey League Broadbent Arena
Louisville RiverBats Baseball 1998–2002 International League Louisville Slugger Field
Louisville Panthers Ice hockey 1999–2001 American Hockey League Freedom Hall
Louisville Fire Arena football 2001–2008 af2 Freedom Hall
Kentucky Colonels Basketball 2004–2006 American Basketball Association Louisville Gardens
Kentucky Retros Basketball 2007 American Basketball Association Freedom Hall
Louisville Lightning Indoor soccer 2009–2012 PASL-Pro Mockingbird Valley Soccer Club
Kentucky Stickhorses Lacrosse 2012–2013 North American Lacrosse League Freedom Hall
Kentucky Xtreme Indoor football 2013 Continental Indoor Football League Freedom Hall

Professional sports

Louisville is now home to five minor-league professional and semi-professional sports teams. The Louisville Bats are a baseball team playing in the Triple-A East as the Class AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The team plays at Louisville Slugger Field at the edge of the city's downtown.

Louisville hosts two soccer teams. Louisville City FC began play in the United Soccer League in 2015, sharing Louisville Slugger Field with the Bats. Louisville City was the reserve side for Major League Soccer's Orlando City SC in 2015, but no longer fills that role after Orlando City launched a team-owned reserve side for the 2016 season. The Derby City Rovers, founded in 2010 as the River City Rovers, have played in the Premier Development League since 2011 but have since ceased operations as of July 2018 with no plans of returning to the pitch.

In October 2019, the National Women's Soccer League announced that it would award an expansion franchise to Louisville that would begin play at Lynn Family Stadium in 2021.

Current Louisville area professional teams
Club Sport Began Play League Venue
Louisville Bats Baseball 1982 Triple-A East Louisville Slugger Field
Derby City Dynamite Women's football 2013 Women's Football Alliance John Hardin High School (Radcliff)
Louisville City FC Soccer 2015 USL Championship Lynn Family Stadium
Metro Louisville FC Soccer 2020 National Premier Soccer League King Louie's Sports Complex
Racing Louisville FC Soccer 2021 National Women's Soccer League Lynn Family Stadium

Louisville is also the home of Valhalla Golf Club which hosted the 1996, 2000, and 2014 PGA Championships, and hosted the 2008 Ryder Cup. It is also home to one of the top skateparks in the U.S., David Armstrong Extreme Park.

Louisville is also the home of Ohio Valley Wrestling, a professional wrestling promotion that at different times served as the official developmental territory for WWE (2000–2008) and TNA Wrestling (2011–2013). Many notable WWE performers trained in OVW, such as Jillian Hall, Randy Orton, John Cena, Batista, CM Punk, and The Spirit Squad (which included the wrestler now known as Dolph Ziggler).

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