Do you have questions about Louisville that Google can’t readily answer? Want to know more than hotel staff will say over the phone? Trying to figure out if a area has decent restaurants or just lots of bars? Post your question to me here, and I’ll give you a straight answer.
I’m a Purdue graduate who transplanted to Louisville in 1999 for a “stepping stone” job at General Electric. This town was never going to be where I settled down so fifteen years later I’m still occasionally surprised that it’s turned out to be a pretty good place to live. Not being a native I won’t try to sugarcoat anything but after reading through a lot of Worlds posts I think this community would be well served to have an advocate on the ground who can tell you the what’s what around town.
I’m a huge educational system advocate of STEM in general and robotics in particular. My experience is almost exclusively LEGO Mindstorm & First Robotics but after reading some local articles about Worlds I’m quite impressed. There’s plenty of need in our schools for STEM, and the more systems available the better.
So, what questions do you have about Louisville?
A common thread throughout many Worlds threads was: What is up with the area around the Convention Center?
When I was reading about Worlds I assumed that it was being held at the downtown Kentucky International Convention Center near a lot of hotels and attractions. Seeing that it was at the Kentucky Exposition Center made me go “Wait, where?”. With all of its’ wings the facility is big enough for any need, but the venue is dated and the area around it is a decidedly older/poorer area with very limited hotel/food options.
On the positive side, the area is starting to get a lot more attention from hotel chains now that Kentucky Kingdom has reopened after being abandoned for years when Six Flags went bankrupt. The team that now owns it has put a lot of money into rejuvenating the existing facility, expanding the water park, and seeking approval for new rides. I don’t have a crystal ball but I would expect a new hotel or two to pop up within walking distance in a few years, along with the usual accompanying chain restaurants. The big limitation is that there’s not a lot of open real estate in that area.
**If you want to be close: **Look for hotels near University of Louisville and/or Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. It’s not within walking distance to the center but it’s a 3-5 minute drive and being near a college campus will exponentially increase your teen-friendly food venues.
If you want options: Louisville’s downtown is seeing a huge surge in new construction with about 1,200 new hotel rooms being added over the next two years, and while some are extremely high end a lot are from more traditional hotels. And that’s on top of the ~4,000 rooms already there. Food options are decent but mostly cater to young professionals and thus are as much urban bar as hip restaurant. This may change as more hotels open and family-friendly becomes more important. The drive to the center from most downtown hotels is approx 10 minutes but be warned that there’s a lot of construction happening (hotel and road) for the next 18 months so roads may be detoured.
If you want less expensive: Look at Louisville’s east & northeast end for hotels. This is the growth direction of Louisville and a lot of very nice family-friendly hotels have popped up to cater to the neighborhoods that have been built over the past 15 years. Most hotels there offer free hot breakfast, swimming pools, and lots of parking. The drive from there to the center is approx 15 minutes, depending on traffic.
Some good news recently popped up about the two convention centers in Louisville.
First, the downtown Kentucky International Convention Center is getting a huge (and long overdue) remodel that will also increase its’ floorspace. If I was involved in coordinating VEX Worlds I would keep an eye on this as a future location. Almost 5,000 hotel rooms will be within walking distance of this center when it’s remodeled.
Second, the city is putting out a request for bidding for a headquartered hotel near the Kentucky Exposition Center where Worlds '15 was hosted. They’re tearing down an old building next door and have already named it the ‘Gate One Hotel’. The current schedule has it opening by 2018.
Third, the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park is getting several new roller coasters in 2015, Cyclos and Skycatcher, and three refurbished attractions, Enterprise, Raging Rapids River Ride, and T3. 2016 should see two more new rides that are somehow thematically connected to these five. Lots of money going into that park.
I apologize to those of you who were frustrated when trying to drive through the giant construction zone that is Louisville’s downtown interstates. But pity us poor commuters who daily have to deal with the lane closures, redirections, and lorry/truck drivers who accelerate like they have triangle wheels. Good news on that front: some interstate ramps that were closed for over a year have been finished and are slowly starting to reopen. By the next Worlds we should see something approaching an actual interstate system again!
Also, a new $300 million downtown hotel/shopping/apartment skyrise has just been formally unveiled. Say what you will about Louisville, some companies with very deep wallets are willing to be that this city is worth investing in.