The Louisville Coopers have come a long way.
Standing in a large warehouse in the Butchertown district of Louisville, it’s hard not to notice the smiles on the faces of Katie Harper, Zach Allen-Kelly, and the rest of the Louisville Coopers tifo crew.
This small group of Louisville City and Racing Louisville supporters are part of the tifo team that plans, designs, sews, and paints the massive displays of art that get unveiled at Louisville matches. And to say they are happy with their new setup would be an understatement.
Until the 2021 season, the Louisville Coopers created all of their tifos in Katie and John Harper’s unairconditioned garage. Their yard was the staging location and they would pack as many helpers into the small space as possible. Over time, their neighbors became accustomed to seeing large, painted sheets spanning the Harpers’ driveway before important matches.
Fortunately, those days are in the past.
This year, the Louisville Coopers have found a home on the second floor of the Melwood Arts Center in Louisville.
No more size limitations. No more sweating for hours in a small garage heated by the summer sun. And best of all, no more worrying about the weather forecast.
“We have definitely come a long way since the early days of making everything at our house,” joked Katie Harper. “Once Lynn Family Stadium was built, we knew we had to step up our game to make everything bigger and better.”
The process begins well before the season even starts. Once the schedule is released, the Louisville Coopers decide which games are best for creating tifos. Sometimes it’s for a rivalry match, other times it’s to raise awareness or make a statement about a social issue.
The planning happens online on Slack where everyone shares their feedback and submits designs. From there, the group votes on which ideas they like best and then the artists like Zach Allen-Kelly get to work.
Zach, a skilled designer and avid Louisville soccer fan, is in charge of turning the final concept into reality on the computer. Once that’s done, John and Katie Harper usually secure the supplies to begin turning Zach’s design into reality. Then another group will spend a full day sewing the pieces of cloth together to make one giant banner.
After the sewing, the fun at Melwood Arts Center begins.
“We usually will spend an entire Saturday sketching out the design on the banner,” explained John Harper. “Once that’s complete, we will come together again the following weekend to paint everything and get it ready for the game.”
If it’s a simpler design, it might take a full day. If it’s more complex, they schedule a couple days of painting.
No matter what though, the tifo-making process is a labor of love.
For some of these Louisville Coopers supporters, it can be like a second job. Between planning, designing, coordinating, sewing, and painting, they put weeks worth of effort into a single tifo.
“The best part is seeing the tifo revealed before a match and feeling the energy of the fans and players in the stadium,” shared John Harper. “Knowing that you are helping to create an incredible atmosphere at Lynn Family Stadium, it’s pretty special.”