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NBA to Louisville? Another small market, great idea. But the city is trying.

Dec 9, 2010, 2:21 PM EST

louisville_skyline_sunset_1

I love Louisville. Birthplace of Muhammad Ali, best known for the cathedral that is Churchill Downs.  If you are there, go check out the Louisville Slugger Museum (you can’t miss it, big bat out in front), it is a fantastic trip through baseball history. And go eat at Jack Fry’s.

But Louisville as home to an NBA team? Not really loving that. However, according to the Courier-Journal the city has been quietly working to bring get in line to bring a team to the city (via CBS Facts & Rumors). They City Council has already spent $60,000 and might spend another $22,000 on the effort, spearheaded by attorney J. Bruce Miller.

In an interview Wednesday Miller said he has a majority investor interested in buying a franchise and moving the team here. He said 15 to 25 potential minority investors are also interested, but he wouldn’t name any of them.

“There’s only two ways to get this done: acquire an existing franchise or get an expansion franchise,” Miller said. “You don’t get either one if you don’t have a behemoth investor. What’s different this time is we have our own billionaire — who is among the richest people in the world.”

What a coincidence, as there is a team for sale just down the road. (Well, a long road, but you get the idea.)

We tend to be cynical about claims of having a billionaire ready to go on a move like this, but maybe they do have one. They have the building — the new Freedom Hall and the KFC Yum! Center, which right now is home to Louisville college basketball. Which is not professional, don’t pretend it is, the NCAA says they’re all amateurs.

But if the NBA is struggling in New Orleans, is moving it out to Louisville a big step up?

Television rules the American sports world right now, and Louisville is the 50th largest television market in the country. That is larger than New Orleans (53) but smaller than Oklahoma City (45) and pretty much every other NBA city. St. Louis, by the way, is 21st with nearly double the televisions of Louisville, and Kansas City is 31st largest. Even if you’re not into the television market angle, realize those televisions mean homes and population, which is a broader base for ticket sales.

Moving the Hornets out of New Orleans will be a public relations disaster for the league, so if they are going to do it they need to make sure it’s to a market where the team is certain to thrive. Is that Louisville? Maybe they can, maybe they can’t, but is that risk worth the PR hit?

Still, got to put Louisville in the mix for now, if they really have a billionaire ready to go.

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