LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Former Kentucky Wildcat and Kentucky Colonel Dan Issel is the new face of a movement to bring an NBA franchise to Louisville.
Issel is now the president of a group called Louisville Basketball Investment and Support Group, an LLC formed in 2016 with the goal of landing an NBA team.
“It’s a legitimate deal, “ Issel said at a news conference Thursday morning. “We’ve been able to bring a great team together.”
More than twenty investors have pooled together $750,000 in startup capital to support the NBA to Louisville initiative. The next step is finding a majority investor, or group of investors, who can foot the estimated $1.4 billion bill to land a franchise if one becomes available.
“There are three potential groups at this time,” said the startup group Vice President J. Bruce Miller. “..and there is a potential for some more.”
Before an NBA team could locate in Louisville, a current team would have to relocate or the NBA would have to announce an expansion.
“[NBA Commissioner Adam Silver] said that the league would be flattered that Louisville would want an NBA (team), however, he said there is no timetable for expansion, and there is no discussion about expansion,” Issel said.
The assumption that an NBA team would have to play at the KFC Yum! Center is not necessarily correct. The group said a renovated Freedom Hall could be the home of Louisville’s potential franchise. It was the one-time home of the Colonels.
“We’ve had various estimates of $200-$250 (million dollars to renovate) Freedom Hall,” Miller said, adding that he believes the naming rights for the arena would pay for a substantial part of the renovation.
WDRB’s Rick Bozich believes that option would be a non-starter for a potential NBA team.
“That arena has too much age on it and too much history. I don’t think it makes sense in this community. You already have a facility downtown, which is struggling to cover its costs,” Bozich said, adding that it wouldn’t make sense to invest that much money into an aging facility.
Issel said he’s not sure if the group will realize its ultimate dream of bringing high-level pro basketball back to Louisville for the first time since the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels left town in 1976.
“I don’t know what kind of percentage we have of succeeding, but I do know that if we don’t try, that percentage is zero,” he said.
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