Speaking at the Leadership Louisville Luncheon along with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson on Thursday, Mayor Greg Fischer announced a plan to create a 25-year vision for the city. And the two local leaders also had a friendly joust over keeping and obtaining an NBA team for their respective cities
Vision Louisville will be a year-long project that seeks to define the future of the city.
The project is a collaborative effort between citizens and Metro Government, and will include an internationally renowned architectural and planning firm located in Oslo, Norway. The Oslo-based company Space Group will lead the project, and engage residents about their dreams and visions for the city through a series of public workshops, online meetings and forums.
Fischer says the new initiative isn’t about his vision for the city, but a community-wide discussion and effort to craft what Louisville should look like in 2040.
“I’m not going to present what our city is going to look like 25 years from now. I’m going to start a process and a discussion, because it’s not that important what I think it’s going to look about. What’s important is what we think it’s going to look about, and it’s going to take a little time for us to figure that out,” he says.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun, who is a chief fundraiser for President Obama’s re-election campaign, and business executive Maria Hampton, will co-chair the Vision Louisville effort. Residents will have their first opportunity for input at the annual IdeaFestival on September 19.
Johnson was the keynote speaker at the event, where he addressed the needs of local government such as education, state policy, public-private partnerships and balancing city budgets.
The former NBA All-Star also touted the benefits of having a professional basketball team amidst growing speculation that his city’s franchise is looking to leave town.
According to sports reports, the owners of the Sacramento Kings are reportedly eyeing other cities and Louisville has been listed as one of their options, but NBA Commissioner David Stern has opposed the idea.
Johnson says a having a NBA franchise helps the city in a number of ways that goes beyond basketball.
“It’s not just about sports. It’s bigger than basketball. In Sacramento, the Kings—that organization—they have 1,000 jobs. So as a mayor we need to do everything that we can to keep jobs and help the ones that we have grow. They pay property taxes, which is another couple of million dollars, which is good for our economy,” he says.
Local boosters believe the KFC Yum Center downtown is a sign that the city is ready to adopt a professional franchise. But the University of Louisville basketball teams are the arena’s primary tenants and hold a restrictive lease agreement, and critics argue there is not enough local interest to support an NBA team.
Earlier this month, the arena’s new general manager dismissed the idea and said it would largely depend on the university.
But in a panel discussion between the two mayors, Fischer says that if given the chance to nab a professional franchise Louisville should jump at the opportunity.
“I have talked to the mayors of Charlotte, New Orleans and Oklahoma City. These mayors all say, ‘if you have a chance at an NBA team it’s a no-brainer to do it.’ Now we’ve got some issues we’ve got to work out,” he says.
A deal to build a new arena for the Kings failed recently, and Johnson cited the KFC Yum Center as a big step for Louisville if it’s in the NBA hunt.
“Don’t take my team,” Johnson joked.