Community

UPDATE: Tickets are no longer available for Friday’s funeral at the KFC Yum! Center.

Two public services will be held in Louisville this week for those wishing to pay last respects to boxing great Muhammad Ali. The Louisville native died late Friday at a Phoenix hospital of septic shock after battling respiratory problems. He was 74.

A 30-minute Islamic funeral prayer program will be held on Thursday at noon at Freedom Hall. The Jenazah will be open to the public with doors opening at 9 a.m.

“To be properly prepared for burial, prayed over and then buried is a right owed to every single Muslim,” said Imam Zaid Shakir, a Muslim American scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkley, California, who will be leading the service. “If no one fulfills those rights, then the entire community has fallen into sin. In the case of someone of Muhammad Ali’s stature, to leave any of those rights unfulfilled would be a crime.”

The decision to have the Jenazah at Freedom Hall was to commemorate Ali’s last fight in Louisville. He defeated Willi Besmanoff on Nov. 29, 1961.

A total of 14,000 tickets will be available on a first come, first service basis for the event. The Freedom Hall box office window will open to the public on Tuesday at 10 a.m. and there is a maximum of four tickets per request. Free parking will be available at the Kentucky Exposition Center (937 Phillips Ln.) for all attendees.

Ali’s funeral will take place on Friday at the KFC Yum! Center. The interfaith service will begin at 2 p.m. and will also be open to the public. Tickets will be available exclusively at the KFC Yum! Center box office beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and officials say guests can begin lining up at 6 a.m. The box office will close at 8 p.m. or upon sellout.

Tickets will be limited to four per person and are on a first come, first serve basis. Based on availability, remaining tickets may be available on Thursday at 10 a.m. For those unable to attend the service, it will be streamed live via the Ali Center’s website.

Among the scheduled speakers are actor Billy Crystal, journalist Bryant Gumbel, former president Bill Clinton, the Rev. Kevin Cosby, the president of Turkey and the king of Jordan.

The following items are NOT permitted inside Freedom Hall or the KFC Yum Center:

Animals
Backpacks
Banners
Briefcases
Car seats
Illegal Substances
Large Bags (larger than 14″x14″x6″) Laser Pens/Pointers
Outside food or drink
Professional Cameras/Detachable Lenses Selfie Sticks
Umbrellas with Pointed Tips/Large Umbrellas Video Cameras

Prior to the funeral service, a procession will carry Ali’s casket through the streets of Louisville. The procession will begin at 9 a.m. Friday on Bardstown Road and travel west to 34th Street before returning to Cave Hill Cemetery.

Mayor Greg Fischer on Monday announced the “I Am Ali Festival,” a celebration of Ali’s journey through life.

“From Grand Avenue to across the globe, Muhammad Ali overcame economic hardship and racial and religious discrimination to become The Greatest,” said Fischer in a news release. “Louisville’s children – all our children – need opportunities that will give them the confidence to become the greatest at whatever they choose to be. Wednesday’s I Am Ali Festival will provide another demonstration of our city-wide support for Louisville’s youth.”

The Festival will be held in the lobby of the Kentucky Center for the Arts (501 W. Main Street) on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Jefferson County Public Schools, the Kentucky Science Center, Louisville Zoo, Louisville Free Public Library and other local arts and education organizations will provide booths and entertainment. There will also be a wall where children can write what they want to be the greatest in, as well as arts and education activities.

Louisville Bicycle Tours and the Louisville Bicycle Club are organizing a community bike ride in Ali’s honor. “The Greatest” Ride will take place on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. The free ride will begin at the Ali Center (144 N. 6th Street) and will take bicyclists to local Ali landmarks, including his childhood home in the Parkland neighborhood.

The flat course is approximately 15 miles in length. Organizers say riders at all experience levels are welcome. The ride is expected to take approximately 2 hours to complete.

“Muhammad’s presence can be felt and seen in many locations around town, and there’s no better way to experience them than on a bike,” Fischer said. “I want to thank Louisville Bicycle Tours and the Louisville Bicycle Club for stepping up and helping make this event happen.”

On Thursday evening, there will be a free showing of the 2001 film “Ali,” starring Will Smith, at the Iroquois Amphitheater (1080 Amphitheater Road). Smith  is among the pallbearers for Ali’s funeral on Friday.

The movie is a dramatized telling of Ali’s early boxing career to his rise to world champion, his conversion to Islam and his refusal to enter the draft. The film earned two Academy Award nominations. (Note: the movie is rated R).

“Ever since we learned of The Champ’s passing, this community has been consumed with all things Ali,” Fischer said in a news release on Tuesday. “We’ve seen televised and printed tributes, remembrances on social media, and we’ve shared our own stories. And still, we cannot get enough. So we thought the public might enjoy coming together to watch this film, which illustrates so much of his early career.”

The amphitheater gates will open at 7 p.m., and the show will start at 8:30 p.m.

Also this week, 4th Street Live! in downtown Louisville is showing Muhammad Ali tribute videos. Seating is provided for visitors who want to sit and view the videos on the large screen.

Fischer also announced the launch of a new website about Ali: alilouisville.com.

The site, created by the mayor’s communications office, includes information about Ali’s childhood and career, his humanitarian efforts, landmarks associated with Ali, and details about the many local events this week of tribute to him.

The Waterfront Development Corporation announced Monday that the Big Four Bridge will be lit in the colors of red and gold through Thursday. According to a news release, the color red symbolizes Ali’s iconic red boxing gloves and the color gold symbolizes his achievements. The lights go on each evening at twilight and off at 1 a.m. 

Jonese Franklin is WFPL's News Editor.