Issel’s group eyes NBA expansion to bring team to Louisville

Estimated $1.4 billion cost to bring an NBA team to Yum! Center
A photo of a basketball goal at Churchill Downs, uploaded to Instagram by NBA2Lou
A photo of a basketball goal at Churchill Downs, uploaded to Instagram by NBA2Lou(NBA2Lou / Instagram)
Updated: Dec. 5, 2018 at 7:50 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It’s not known when the league would expand, but a local group wanting to bring professional basketball to the Derby City wants to be ready now.

That group, NBA2Lou, made its case on Wednesday at a Venture Connectors luncheon at the Ali Center.

Led by UK basketball legend and former NBA player Dan Issel, the group intends to have an application ready whenever NBA expansion happens.

“Market size, population growth, disposable income, all of those statistics are very much in Louisville’s favor to be able to support a professional sports team,” he said.

With former NBA city Seattle being awarded an NHL expansion team this week, there is much buzz about other sports leagues following suit.

However, ESPN reports that NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in May, that he’s focused on creating a competitive league among the existing 30 teams and that expansion is not on the horizon.

NBA2Lou would prefer having a professional team play at the KFC Yum! Center, but Issel told the gathering on Wednesday that lease challenges could get in the way.

Seattle’s NHL success comes as that city debated on remodeling the existing Key Arena, once home to the SuperSonics, or to build a new arena. They chose to spend $700 million to expand the existing structure.

Issel believes the facility part of the equation is already solved when it comes to landing an NBA expansion team in Louisville.

"I don't go to games much anymore, unless my grandkids want to go. It's easier to sit in my underwear in my recliner and beers are only a dollar," he said, drawing laughter. "I was watching UofL the other night when they were playing Michigan State, and Dan Dakich, the (ESPN) color commentator, he was just raving about the Yum Center, said it was the nicest arena he'd been in. It would rank right at the top."

The cost to get an NBA expansion team in Louisville would be around $1.4 billion, Issel said, covering the expansion fee and around $400 million to sign players, staff and other related costs.

NBA2Lou has seven people under a non-disclosure agreement, according to Issel, and are adding potential investors "almost monthly."

"So a billion-four is a lot of money," he said. "But you would be surprised how many people, how many groups, have the ability to write that kind of check."

Now the group just needs a date from the NBA to cash it.

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