Memo to Mayor Fischer on UofL basketball, the NBA and the Yum!


TO:  Greg Fischer, Mayor, Louisville Metro

RE:   Efforts to attract NBA franchise

Recent reports indicate that your Administration is strongly committed to positioning the community as a possible destination for a National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise. The only logical site for a professional basketball team would be the KFC Yum! Center.

Don’t tread on U of L.

These efforts, if successful, could help reduce the city’s financial obligations in meeting debt payments on the arena bonds. It is commendable that you want to be proactive in resolving the issue, wanting the arena to be self-sufficient and a greater catalyst in stimulating the local economy.

University of Louisville fans are understandably interested in this effort, curious about how such a development, however remote it would appear to be, would affect the UofL basketball program. The University, as you know, originally wanted an on-campus facility, agreeing to move the program elsewhere only to make a downtown arena feasible.

There apparently have been some meetings concerning the NBA and the arena, involving local government and business leaders, as well as some former NBA players, including some who played at UofL. The agenda appears to suggest that the metro government may want more involvement in the scheduling of events and less control from the University, which is the primary tenant. Feedback indicates that metro government would not be reluctant to apply considerable political muscle to force changes.

However, your Administration has made a deliberate choice to exclude the primary tenant  from participating in the meetings. This is a serious miscalculation on your part, concluding that UofL would not be amenable to working with the city on an issue that affects the entire community. Some of your confidants are providing you with ill-conceived counsel if they believe this situation can be resolved without UofL’s active involvement.

You have said that the University has to be a big winner in whatever happens involving efforts to attract an NBA team or to achieve more flexibility in arena scheduling. Whether this is factual or just a way of providing political cover in efforts to greatly diminish the economic benefits of the arena to UofL remains to be seen.

Thousands of people throughout this community take pride in the University of Louisville’s stake in the arena and will not abide anything that weakens the UofL basketball programs.

U of L must be deeply involved in any deliberations affecting the current and future management of the facility or any and all efforts to attract an NBA franchise are destined to fall on their collective face.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

12 thoughts on “Memo to Mayor Fischer on UofL basketball, the NBA and the Yum!

  • September 25, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Crybabies, that is all UofL has ever been. Its their way, or no way. Other cities get along just fine with their arenas shared by a college program and the NBA, but whoa, not in Louisville. We have to have separate venues for everyones big ego. What they are really afraid of is losing some of their revenue, loyalty, nothing more. You may try your best to keep this a one horse town, but eventually you are going to lose out, so start preparing for it now. Even tiny Evansville built a great arena downtown, Ford Arena while we sat up here and debated should we renovate ancient Freedom Hall. Sorry indeed.

    • September 25, 2012 at 11:20 pm

      Revenue and loyalty are two pretty important considerations for any school.

    • September 26, 2012 at 8:48 am

      Let an NBA team renovate Freedom Hall; the YUM only exists because of the U of L brand built it, johnny-come-latelies be damned.

    • September 26, 2012 at 10:03 am

      There’s not enough open dates available for NBA unless the Lady Cards stop playing their games there along with many of volleyball matches. Plus with the NBA now you have to negotiate everything way in advance – the cardinals would not have first rights anymore (they may have preference but they wouldn’t have priority). So if a powerhouse team suddenly has an open date one year it’s pretty easy for Tom to say sure, we can play on that date. With an NBA team this becomes harder.

      This is the entire reason U of L didn’t want to go downtown. They wanted their own place so that they would be able to schedule and use it anytime. They wanted to be able to schedule practices at anytime. Many times both the Men’s and Womens teams are practicing there at the same time. There is a full practice court under the stands that is can be used while the other team practices and/or has a game. There’s also training rooms and nice facilities that are keys to recruiting. Throw an NBA team in there and now the Lady cards lose their place and we also lose the ability to have as many practices there for the men’s team to boot (NBA plays many more games than college teams).

      Have you seen Freedom Hall lately? I wouldn’t want to be sent back to that place for games. It’s not being kept up anymore. Plus the lady cards wouldn’t be able to have practices there most of the time.

      The University was promised these things when they agreed to be part of a much much more expensively built arena downtown. Now the Mayor is doing his best to renege on that contract.

      If I had an extra hundred million lying around I’d say fine, let the city try to pay for the arena with an NBA team that will come in and leave within 5-8 years – here’s an on-campus arena that is just as nice (minus the river view) but cost 100 million less.

  • September 26, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Build a damn casino in the Ville. Let the city get revenue there to pay off the damn budget deficit

  • September 26, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Another comment is this:

    If the powers that be hadn’t been so enamored of building down at the riverfront it wouldn’t have been a money loosing proposition at this point.

    If it had been built at the water company site it would have had skylinks directly to the convention center through the Marriott and to 4th street live. It would have also been built with an extra large concourse around the main level with meeting rooms and/or restaurants to complement the convention center for large conventions. It still would have had all the practice facilities and training facilities as well. It would have had more room in fact for those. Plus, building it there wouldn’t have costed 63 million to move a substation and more to prepare the site since it was on a floodplain.

    Heck, if they had just kept the hotel plans where the plaza is now it wouldn’t have been bad. There were plans for some convention space in that hotel that would open up onto the concourse, and tentative plans to build a skylink across main then onto the convention center. But since they decided back in 2007 that “there’s too many rooms in downtown Louisville” they abandoned that part of the plan.

  • September 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Revenue is not an acceptable reason not to renegotiate the lease agreement. Right now UL makes money on concert t-shirt sales…how on earth is that normal? It isn’t your revenue from Athletics events that people want to touch. It is everything UL is getting for non athletic events. You are holding the city hostage by taking those pieces of value int he contract. You are restricting the Arena Authorities ability to meet projections which puts pressure on the tax payers. #Louisville1st

    • September 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Didn’t know that Stephen. There may be some room for negotiating on those kinds of issues.

    • September 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      It’s a CONTRACT which has not yet run it’s full term for renegotiation. A CONTRACT that was necessary to get UofL on board and get the arena built as/where it is. So you say it was a bad deal? So what! That does not mean that the University of Louisville is obligated to renegotiate. When the contract expires UofL will gladly renegotiate, but not a moment sooner. Too bad for you and your NBA dreams Stephen!

  • September 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    When did the town get big enough to support an NBA team anyway? It has been a dream ever since the Kentucky Colonels were dissolved and not absorbed as a unit into the big league, and, last I heard, the NBA still wasn’t convinced that Louisville could/would support an NBA franchise. I suggest the Mayor determine if there is even a chance to land a pro team first, then he can decide how to redecorate Freedom Hall to house them.

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