The idea of Louisville getting an NBA team has been around for years and hasn't ever really advanced far beyond the idea stage. Now with a sparkling new downtown arena that could sorely use additional revenue, and a Mayor who is a strong proponent of the idea, the idea has again begun to gain momentum. Helping to build that momentum is NBA2Lou, a grassroots group that’s using social media to gather support, make the case that an NBA team in Louisville would be a regional draw, and point out some underlying benefits for the city and the University of Louisville. I recently spoke with them about their efforts.
Your Facebook page shows 5 people associated with the NBA2Lou campaign. How did you meet and what spurred you to start this movement?
"Actually, the guys currently administering the Facebook and Twitter stuff (Albrecht Stahmer, Billy Grubbs, Nick Evans, Phil Baker, and Stephen Hill) are not the original founders of the Facebook movement. Nick Evans, who runs the StraitPinkie sports blog, expressed interest in becoming involved and contacted the page founders. We both wound up getting involved in November 2010. Phil (Baker) became an administrator of the Facebook profile in May and has put in countless hours. Stephen Hill contacted us and asked to get involved in August and he, Nick Evans, and Billy Grubbs are responsible primarily for the Twitter stuff, which Phil helps out with, too."
In your opinion, what are the benefits of bringing the NBA to Louisville?
"Governor Beshear just got back from a trip to India trying to drum economic development opportunities for Kentucky; earlier this year he traveled to Taiwan, Japan, France and Germany. In order to compete and stay relevant in the global economy, you need to be able to sell the merits of doing business in your city and/or state. Being one of 30 cities in the world to have an NBA franchise call it home and appearing on ESPN 40+ times per year and in the sports pages around the world is an effective way to market the region and create global awareness. As Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett pointed out, what better way to promote your city than being on TV in 215 countries and in 49 different languages?
Secondly, the TIF district is struggling. An NBA team playing 41 games and drawing the NBA average of 17,274 fans per game would dump an extra 700,000+ folks per year into the TIF district. Add in preseason games and possible postseason games, plus folks who just want to be in the area during games to revel in the atmosphere, a la Thunder Alley in Oklahoma City, and now you’re talking of upwards of 1,000,000 folks in the TIF district per year."
What do you think the benefits would be for UofL, and what would a potential deal between the University and the city look like?
"For UofL as a university, it represents an easy tool to promote itself to a much wider audience, nationally and globally. This must have some value for a university that now operates a campus in Panama City and MBA programs in Singapore and Hong Kong. It would also be an opportunity to nationally and internationally promote its Medical School and the Medical Center, to promote its Business School and its nationally recognized Entrepreneurial program. I think there are countless opportunities for the University to promote itself on NBA telecasts.
As for UofL basketball, I don’t think fans will desert en masse, they’re too loyal. The same holds true for local businesses. I trust that Yum!, UofL and the city can come to an agreement that benefits all three parties, as well as a potential NBA team. I specifically mention KFC because they have a 10-year, $13.5 million dollar naming rights deal on the arena (with a 10-year option); they also offered up a 20-year, $100 million dollar naming rights deal back in 2001 to both the Grizzlies and the Hornets for a potential naming rights deal."
Would the NBA support a move to Louisville?
"In 2001, the league supported both the Grizzlies and Hornets moving to Louisville. Mayor Fischer has been in contact with David Stern, who gave him no reasons why Louisville shouldn’t pursue a franchise. UK and UL rank 1 & 3 in attendance in the NCAA, that should be the first indication that basketball is supported around these parts. We must (also) think outside the city of Louisville, and look at Kentuckiana, Southeastern Ohio, and Tennessee."
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