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City of Louisville Announces Deal to Build $65 Million Studio

Project raises Kentucky's profile as it competes with production powerhouses in Georgia and Louisiana

Rendering of new studio at Louisville Gardens
Louisville Film Commission

Count Kentucky among the states building studio infrastructure to take advantage of new production tax incentives.

Following last year’s reinstatement of Kentucky’s 30-35% tax credit, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has announced approval and a letter of intent with River City Entertainment Group to develop the historic Louisville Gardens building into 40,000 square feet of studio space divided among four stages.

The $65 million project is projected to break ground in 2023, with stages available for use in 2025. The plans includes restoring the façade of the Louisville Gardens back to the original design of the Louisville Armory, restoring the balance of the exterior, the offices and upstairs black box theatre, and redeveloping the internal structure to construct soundstages, retail space, and a public museum.

Paving the way for the project was the 2021 passage by the Kentucky General Assembly – and signing by Gov. Andy Beshear – of a bill reinstating the Kentucky Film Tax Credit, allowing the state to approve up to $75 million of refundable tax credits annually for film and entertainment productions made in the state.

Most recently, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority Board (KEDFA) approved $700,000 in state and local job creation incentives for the project.

“Kentucky’s lucrative film tax incentives, our talented local workforce, and our diverse locations have all helped to create an incredible film economy in Louisville, and now with soundstages and a studio presence, our city can elevate our film and media infrastructure similarly to New Orleans and Atlanta,” said Soozie Eastman, president of 502 Film, a nonprofit that connects visiting productions with resources in the greater Louisville region, and chair of the Louisville Film Commission. “This investment from the River City Entertainment Group will not only allow our crew and creatives to remain local and flourish in our city, but it will also attract more productions and investments, growing our workforce and overall creative economy.”

“The restoration and redevelopment of the Louisville Gardens has remained a high priority throughout my administration, and I am proud to announce today that we have taken the next step toward giving this iconic property a renewed life,” said Fischer.  “This use will advance our existing arts and film industry by attracting more productions and creating additional job opportunities locally.

The next step is for LMG to negotiate the terms of a development agreement with River City Entertainment Group, which will lay out a timeline for structural, environmental and other customary due diligence items related to the building to determine the estimated total renovation costs, as well as the assessment of community benefits, and the availability of incentives that will be necessary to commence the revitalization of the building.

The Louisville Gardens opened in 1905 as the Jefferson County Armory home of the Louisville Legion militia battalion before becoming primarily an entertainment venue in the 1920s. It has hosted multiple marquee events, including Golden Gloves tournament with a young Muhammad Ali, rallies with Martin Luther King Jr. and President Harry S. Truman, and concerts headlined by Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder.