Previously (and often) I’ve taken the position that there should be an NBA team ensconced at the flailing Yum! (JAY-sus, I hate that name altogether, and detest the exclamation mark even more) Center, and the University of Louisville should not have veto rights over potential relocation deals.
Perhaps a majority of my acquaintances disagree, and that’s fine. I’m a pro sports kind of guy, and in a market able to draw the like-minded from big distances south, east and west, it is my belief that the NBA has a shot here.
I was having a Twitter discussion earlier today, and the Louisville + NBA = ??? equation was mentioned. Coincidentally, Oklahoma City and its Thunder were profiled in last Sunday. Seemingly, this is a good comparison in terms of market size.
A Basketball Fairy Tale in Middle America, by Sam Anderson (NYT)
However, perhaps it isn’t so simple, even if the news in other cities like Memphis, Tennessee, has been quite positive of late.
“The Nation” recently suggested that small market pro sports success is a myth, because for a team’s ownership to succeed, significant subsidies must be shifted its way by the particular city. Zirin makes a forceful case during the course of describing how the Thunder came to relocate from Seattle.
James Harden, the NBA and the Myth of Small Markets, by Dave Zirin (The Nation)
Of course, we’ve heard this argument before, and there is substantial testimony supporting the position that pro sports teams are more of an economic drain than boon owing to the necessity of public subsidies to enhance profitability.
A Critical Battle Over The Sports Economics Model, by Warren Meyer (Forbes)
In this context, and as mentioned in Anderson’s article above, perhaps the critical factor prefacing OKC’s success with the advent of a pro basketball team was that the Thunder’s arrival was not intended to initiate revitalization. Rather, it served as a virtual appendix to revitalization work already underway for a full two decades.
GLIDE trip insiders: How unity of vision and an ambitious, yet fiscally conservative, taxing plan transformed Oklahoma City, by Melissa Chipman (Insider Louisville, with link to a 2008 NYT article about rehabilitation of OKC’s urban river)
In Louisville’s case, might not the real problem be that with public subsidies already spent on the arena’s construction as U of L’s exclusive crib, the university simply isn’t in a sharing mood when it comes to gift horses?