Name The Downtown Arena

The chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority reports that the group is closing in on naming rights for the new downtown arena, with three companies currently vying for the honor. Jim Host expressed confidence after Monday’s meeting that the authority can get $40 million over 20 years for the rights.

The parties involved in those negotiations have been a closely guarded secret. This allows for a lot of idle speculation on the part of greatly interested fans. Which company will have its name on the University of Louisville basketball palace, the future crown jewel of college basketball kingdom? On what will be the most prominent feature in the city’s skyline, their identity becoming an integral part of the community’s identity, featured indefinitely in pictorial atlases around the world? A few guesses:

United Parcel Service — The UPS folks love Louisville and especially the University of Louisville for creating tailored educational opportunities for their employees. Executives of the city’s largest employer also say they think the city is the ideal location for its major shipping hub. The company has already indicated that it will make a major contribution to the football stadium expansion, the extent of which has yet to be announced. The only drawback is the company’s corporate color is brown. Much creativity would be required to mesh brown with red and black.

YUM — Yum is the world’s largest restaurant company with nearly 36,000 establishments in 110 countries and territories. The corporate headquarters are based in Louisville. They have good relations with UofL, having already ponied up millions for Rick Pitino’s luxury-laden basketball practice facility on Floyd Street. One would hope, however, that the idea for a Kentucky Fried Chicken Bucket has been put on the back burner and relegated to the trash heap. There should be no confusion about whether this is a Louisville or Kentucky facility. We can live with Yum.

Papa John’s — Yeah, Papa John Schnatter withdrew his money for a downtown arena a while back but he could be having second thoughts. He could probably see the new arena from the location in Jeffersonville where he started his pizza empire as a young entrepreneur in a broom closet. Having the company’s name on the university’s two most prominent athletic facilities would make him one of the community’s most beloved civic leaders. We hear he’s back as the CEO, and he could make a little extra money in one of the world’s largest pizza houses.

Brown-Forman — A better name would be the Owsley Brown Frazier Arena for the former chairman of the company which has invested heavily in the community for decades. Frazier has probably personally donated almost as much as the company has over the years. Companies usually like to promote themselves or their products so he would probably demur.  But if anyone deserves to have their name featured so prominently on the city’s skyline, it is Owsley Brown Frazier.

Which companies do you think are negotiating for the rights? What name would you like to see on the new downtown arena?

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