Friday, March 09, 2001

Patton supports hoops arena in Louisville

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Gov. Paul Patton said it is time for Louisville to build an arena for a National Basketball Association team and the University of Louisville men's team.

        Mr. Patton and several aides met for nearly two hours in Frankfort on Wednesday to discuss a proposal for building an arena. The meeting was arranged by J. Bruce Miller, the Louisville attorney trying to bring the NBA's Vancouver Grizzlies to town.

        “The governor feels if Louisville wants to be a major league city, it should have a major league pro franchise,” said Jack Conway, Mr. Patton's deputy Cabinet secretary.

        Also present at the meeting was House Speaker Jody Richards, state budget director Jim Ramsey and Jonathan Blum, senior vice president of Tricon Global Restaurants, which owns Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell.

        Mr. Blum would not say what part Tricon would play in the deal, but said an NBA arena would be a magnet for downtown development.

        “We're going to do our part to make sure (the Grizzlies) feel that Louisville should become their home,” Mr. Blum said.

        Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is considering Louisville; New Orleans; Memphis, Tenn.; Las Vegas; and Anaheim, Calif. as possible new homes for the team.

        Mr. Conway said that the governor was impressed with a financing proposal presented to him and that he asked Mr. Ramsey to review its feasibility.

        Mr. Patton plans to meet with members of Louisville's legislative delegation to gauge their support for an arena, Mr. Conway said.

        If support is there, the state may be willing to team with the city of Louisville and others to build it, Mr. Conway said.


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