SBD/Issue 56/Franchises

Hornets Face More Hurdles In Louisville; St. Louis Ready

Some KY legislators "have thrown up a roadblock" to building a $250M arena in downtown Louisville to attract the Hornets, saying legislators "won't approve a new ticket tax needed to help pay" for the project, according to Chris Poynter of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. Key House Appropriations and Revenue Committee members said that the 5% surcharge on tickets for arena sporting events "has almost no chance of getting through" the General Assembly when it begins meeting in January. KY Rep. (D-Louisville) and Chair of Jefferson County's legislative delegation Mary Lou Marzian, said, "Very few people are going to vote for a tax, no matter if it's a fee, license or surcharge. To vote for a tax for an NBA arena when we can't fund mental health and mental retardation would be really hypocritical." Poynter noted DC-based Goal Group projected the ticket surcharge for NBA and WNBA games would bring in $1.8M in the arena's first year, and noted that the surcharge "would increase to more than $6[M] when the arena debt is paid off" in 2034. Meanwhile, Hornets co-Owner Ray Wooldridge said Saturday that he "didn't want to manage the building," which the city's plan had called for the Hornets to do. Wooldridge: "We're not in the position of running arenas" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 12/2). In a separate piece, Poynter noted the hearing lasted 90 minutes and was attended by 120 residents and all 12 aldermen. Wooldridge told the crowd, "We'd love to be here, love to work with you." Louisville Chamber of Commerce Chair Ed Glasscock told the crowd that the NBA "would improve Louisville's image and make people 'understand what we're all about other than the Kentucky Derby'" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 12/2).

KFC'S IMPACT: Tricon Global Restaurants Senior VP Jonathan Blum said that his company's reported $100M sponsorship and naming-rights offer is "about both civic image and commerce." Blum: "I have to be honest — we're in it to sell some chicken. We want to see the Kentucky Colonels come here and play in the KFC Center. ... But this is also an enhancement to the quality of life here. Right now, when you go downtown after [5:00pm], the sidewalks roll up" (Tim Whitmire, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/2).

ST. LOUIS' CHANCES: In St. Louis, Christopher Carey cited sports economists and consultants as saying that though Blues/Savvis Center Owner Bill Laurie "covets an NBA franchise, bringing the Hornets to Savvis Center would make sense only if the team and its revenue stream become part of the overall business." Carey: "For that to happen, Laurie has to align his interests with those of the Hornets owners. But no matter how it is done, the best economic plan is to have one entity running the Blues, an NBA team and the management contract to Savvis Center" (POST-DISPATCH, 12/2).

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