LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer "brainstormed" the idea of the NBA's Indiana Pacers playing ten games at the KFC Yum! Center during a meeting with the arena's main tenant, the mayor's office acknowledged on Tuesday after the University of Louisville revealed details of the April 30 meeting between Fischer and Athletic Director Tom Jurich.
During a mayor's office meeting about Cardinals soccer and a new soccer stadium, Fischer brought up basketball and an idea for the Indiana Pacers to play ten games at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville during the regular season, according to Kenny Klein, U of L Sports Information Director. Klein said the information came from Jurich, who declined to be interviewed.
Fischer has not discussed the idea with the NBA team, spokesman Chris Poynter said on Tuesday.
A Pacers public relations official said he was "not aware of any such thing."
Yet, details of the meeting further reveal Fischer's increasingly public interest in an NBA team moving to Louisville. Elected two years ago, Fischer has taken a more active and vocal role in the NBA conversation than previous mayors.
"We have to put ourselves in a position to win if we want to win," Fischer told WHAS11 on Tuesday. "We're just at the very early stages of assessing feasibility, is where we're at on this project."
Since private efforts to move the NBA's Hornets and Grizzlies to Louisville a decade ago, the 22,000 seat KFC Yum! Center basketball arena has been opened in downtown Louisville and is home to the university's men's and women's basketball teams.
With tax revenues far below projections to pay off the arena's construction debt, Fischer has pushed the idea of an NBA team filling open dates and increasing revenue in a special taxing district around the arena. Such a move would likely require major changes in the Louisville Arena Authority's lease with the University of Louisville which controls the arena's scheduling, branding and virtually every revenue stream.
In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal's Tim Sullivan published Tuesday, Jurich expressed concerns about Fischer's approach to the NBA effort, in particular a September 14 meeting with NBA enthusiasts.
"Nobody's communicating with us," Jurich told Sullivan. "They had a meeting behind our back (and) we get people who were invited to the meeting sending us copies of the letter saying, 'Hey, this is going on behind your back.' That's how we found out."
"I read the (Courier-Journal) column," Fischer said. "I was a little surprised by it."
"We had kept U of L in the loop going back into the Spring," Fischer continued. "I had a meeting with Tom in April and we talked about this specifically."
"That's a hard pill to swallow," Jurich told the Courier-Journal, "because we really sucked it up to go down there and I thought we were tremendous team players."
The university had preferred a new on-campus arena before agreeing to the KFC Yum! Center lease, downtown. Jurich suggested that pressuring U of L to amend the lease for the NBA could amount to a "bait-and-switch.”
"I understand the University of Louisville holds the lease to that as well," Fischer told WHAS11. "I have repetitively said that they would need to be a winner in this deal as well. And if it ever gets serious, we'll sit down and have that conversation."
"On Aug 31, I sent a letter to (University) President Ramsey and Tom and Coach Pitino," Fischer recalled, "but Tom's been traveling a lot so I assume he didn't see that. President Ramsey responded to me in mid-September so I guess Tom didn't see that either as well."
Klein, however, said Jurich had read Fischer letter and co-signed a reply letter with Ramsey and Men's Basketball Coach Rick Pitino.
"A city should always be looking at ways to win, ways to grow and ways to be more attractive," Fischer said. "That's my job. And I'm going to do it whether it's unattractive with certain people, no matter who it is, so we can have the great big community discussion."