By JACOB GLASSNER
As a boxer, Muhammad Ali was known as "The Greatest."
But beyond boxing, he'd like to inspire his hometown and the world to find their greatness within.
Ali and his wife Lonnie int/files/storyimages/to do that through the new $75 million Muhammad Ali Center, an international cultural and educational center set to open this week/files/storyimages/in downtown Louisville on Sixth Street between Main Street and River Road.
The 93,000-square-foot center will promote personal discovery and understanding across age, cultural and geographic barriers through 24,000 square feet of exhibits, which include 10 theaters and 50 interactive stations. The center also has classrooms, distance learning facilities, an auditorium, two art galleries, a library, multi-functional rooms, a retail shop, a cafe and a public plaza.
"The Muhammad Ali Center is both a destination site and an educational center," said Jeanie Kahnke, the center's vice president for public affairs and communications. "For those lucky enough to visit our two-and-a-half levels of exhibitry, they will find that it is not a place of artifacts, rather it is a place of ideas, a place that inspires exploration of the greatness within ourselves."
Ali's life is presented through interactive "journeyline" exhibits, which go from his Louisville roots and boxing career to his societal and religious convictions and humanitarianism.
The presentations are organized according to the six core values of Ali's life: confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, spirituality and giving.
The center also will seek to be a "global gathering place" where visitors may meet in person and online to share and encourage cultural understanding.
The weekend's festivities will begin with the Grand Opening Gala on Saturday, Nov. 19. The sold-out event will include previews of the center, a dinner and an entertainment program that will include dance, poetry and music.
Ali and his wife will attend, as will boxers Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, singer James Taylor, actor Jim Carrey, and Kentucky's own Wynonna and Ashley Judd.
A Public Dedication and Community Celebration will be held on Sunday, Nov. 20, from 1 to 3 p.m. on the Belvedere.
"As an educational and cultural 'global gathering place,' the Ali Center welcomes members of the community to join in celebrating the opening of the center," said Ali Center president and CEO Michael J. Fox (no relation to the actor of the same name).
The celebration will include performances by Nappy Roots, students from Jefferson County Public Schools and the River City Drum Corps.
Speakers will include the Alis, U.S. Rep. Anne Northup, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson.
Following the ceremony, the center will be open for two hours.
Center hours will be Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5.
Admission is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors (65 and older), $5 for students, $4 for children 6 to 12 and free for children 5 and under.
For details, call 584-9254 or visit alicenter.org.
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