Tour of sports in Louisville before next KU game

Posted at 4:49 PM, Mar 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-25 19:29:24-04

Hosting the regional final between Villanova and KU on Saturday night, Louisville is certainly a college basketball hub. But basketball is just a small slice of the giant sports culture pie the city has been producing for decades. 

"You're just surrounded by so much. If we don't have it here, you can find it within a couple hours," said Shannon Siders, communications manager at Louisville Slugger. 

The Louisville Slugger bat factory lies just five blocks from the KFC Yum! Center where the Jayhawks will play for the chance to reach the Final Four. 

"We make about 1.8 million wood bats here every year," said Siders. 

Louisville Slugger started making bats in 1884 after a woodworker at the factory offered to help build baseball player Pete Browning a new bat. The next day, Browning went 4-4 and the Louisville Slugger has been famous ever since. 

Aside from walking through the on-site museum and seeing the largest bat in the world, fans get to walk through a tour of the factory and witness firsthand how their favorite baseball player's bats are created. 

But the most famous athlete to come from Louisville wasn't a baseball player. 

"This is the city after all where Muhammad Ali's roots began," said Jeanie Kahnke, who helps manage the Muhammad Ali Center. 

Ali, a native to Louisville, began boxing at age 12 after following the advice of a police sergeant who heard the young "Cassius Clay" wanted to "whoop" the person who stole his bike. 

The Muhammad Ali Center is a nonprofit that lies just two blocks away from the Louisville Slugger factory. It showcases Ali's entire life and legacy and its a treasure to Ali himself, who still visits from his Arizona home from time to time. 

But, still, on top of Ali's legacy might be the most famous of all - the Kentucky Derby. 

"It's the equivalent of Phog Allen Fieldhouse for the sport of horse racing," said Churchill Downs communications manager Darren Rogers. 

Churchill Downs is just 10 minutes south of downtown Louisville and sees close to a million visitors a year. 

"But to put it into perspective, on Kentucky Derby day alone we will have 170,000 people on hand," said Rogers. 

Top off the sports culture with an NCAA basketball national title from Louisville's Cardinals in 2013, and the city certainly makes a case for one of America's greatest sports towns. 

"Raised on college basketball. Raised on horses. Later in life you might sample a little bourbon. We know how to have a good time in Louisville, and it's a great sports town, said Rogers. 


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