LOUISVILLE, Ky. (June 20, 2024) — The KFC Yum! Center has been one of the best arenas in the U.S. since it opened in 2010. Despite its now established reputation in the city, the arena was met with opposition during early years of development.

Young Professionals Association of Louisville (YPAL) was one of the first organizations to advocate for the arena to be built in Louisville.

Jim Host, the former chairman of the Arena Authority Board, led development planning for the arena. Host was appointed by Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher to the Louisville Arena Authority, Inc. was created in 2005. The group was tasked with overseeing construction of the new arena in Louisville.

Host was introduced to YPAL when Eric Gunderson, then YPAL President, attended public meetings with other YPAL board members as planning for the arena started.

 

Host and Gunderson, now Chief Executive Officer for High10Digital, recently shared a conversation about the KFC Yum! Center, YPAL’s impact and the future for young professionals.

Host was involved in building Rupp Arena in Lexington, so Fletcher appointed him to lead the planning and development. Host said there were plenty of doubters in the community, but YPAL supported the arena and wanted to be involved.

“YPAL was the first, and I mean the first group through your leadership and several others that got involved in the arena authority,” Host said. “I will never forget my first appearance in terms of YPAL.”

From a nine-year period from 2014-2023, the KFC Yum! Center generated an average of $29.1 million in annual earnings and 580 full-time jobs, according to Host. He said the arena in downtown Louisville with a capacity of 22,090 is the largest arena within a 400-mile radius.

Host credited YPAL with the success of the KFC Yum! Center.

“It’s been a great success story, there is no way that I can say thank you to YPAL than saying thank you to this group,” Host said. “We didn’t have any support to speak of until YPAL got involved.”

Gunderson recalled an early public meeting when YPAL board members showed up to request a young professional be appointed to the board.

“We were not greeted with open arms with that request,” Gunderson said. “But we kept showing up.”

Host said YPAL representatives kept showing up, and they were eventually rewarded.

Members of YPAL drove to and from Frankfort, on their own time and expenses, to speak with state legislators about the arena.

“Because YPAL did advocate and did take a stand and continued to show up and earn your respect, that we did make a difference,” Gunderson said.

During their conversation via Zoom, Gunderson remembered a meeting when he arrived five minutes early. Host jokingly said five minutes early was considered late because 15 minutes ahead of time was considered on time.

Host said he never started a meeting late in his life.

On Oct. 10, 2010, the KFC Yum! Center officially opened after years of work, planning and construction.

“It’s the most significant project I’ve ever been involved in,” Host said. “It’s become hugely popular.”

Host, 86, encourages young professionals to get involved in things they care about.

“There is not one thing that young professionals can’t get involved in if they don’t try,” Host said. “If you just beat on the door, you’ll get involved, I guarantee you.”

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