Community Sports

It could cost $1.4 billion but a group of investors interested in bringing an NBA team to Louisville says it remains committed to its goal. The group gave an update on the project to community members at the Louisville Forum Wednesday.

Former NBA player Dan Issel spoke at the forum, saying he and other investors have pooled more than $750,000 for the initiative and could invest up to $3 million. Issel said a team would bring money and positive influence to Louisville, and he wants Mayor Greg Fischer and other city officials to voice support for the endeavor.

Issel said the group is currently working to find a potential majority owner or owners to buy a team, and it plans to meet with potential business people for that effort in the coming weeks.

“It’s not just finding somebody who could write a big check, it’s finding somebody who would be passionate about owning a franchise,” Issel said. “Once we have identified that person, then we can make the decisions about where we play, what the team’s going to be called, what the colors are and all of the other things.”

Issel said he’d like the team to be named the Kentucky Colonels, commemorating Louisville’s American Basketball team that dissolved in the 70s. Issel played for the Colonels before heading to the NBA.

But there are many obstacles to bringing a team here.

First, Issel said 23 NBA owners must vote in favor of expanding a team to Louisville. Also, a new tax law prevents businesses from deducting sports tickets from their expenses, and the University Of Louisville’s use of the KFC Yum! Center could deter an NBA team from using it.

Despite the obstacles, Issel said businesses would still be attracted to buying tickets and associating with a professional team. He also said he talked with Yum Center officials, who said a deal involving U of L and the NBA would be “challenging, but doable.”

WHAS host Terry Meiners moderated the Louisville Forum. Meiners said bringing an NBA team to use the KFC Yum! Center would be worth it for the taxpayers.

“Some people will never go in the Yum Center, however, they’re helping pay for it. We owe everybody in this community the opportunity to generate as much revenue to pay down the note that we owe,” Meiners said. “It’s incumbent upon the University of Louisville or anybody else to be a partner with we the people, the taxpayers.”

Issel said he has no plans to talk with U of L about being a majority owner of the Yum Center, but he said he did speak briefly with U of L Athletic Director Vince Tyra.

Isssel also said the identities of the business people interested in being a majority owner will be confidential, but that he would update the community on the meetings. He said he would meet with a dozen or more business people.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.