Louisville basketball: R.I.P. to the name ‘KFC Yum! Center’

A general view outside the KFC Yum! Center (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
A general view outside the KFC Yum! Center (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

Final days of the naming rights contract are winding down for Louisville basketball arena.

Many people in the Louisville area aren’t commuting to or traveling through the downtown business district as much as in the past.  The next time you make that trip, you may notice that Louisville basketball’s home arena is missing some familiar markings.

That’s because the naming rights agreement with Yum! Brands, Inc. is set to expire at the end of this month on September 30th.  I’ll go ahead and predict that date goes by without much fanfare.  In fact, it’s hard to find the exact date when the contract expires.  It can be found in the latest financial report for the Louisville Arena Authority (LAA).

It’s been a ten year relationship marked by hills and valleys in the financial condition of the LAA.  When the arena was conceived, a naming rights deal was projected by LAA consultants to return as much as $40 million over 30 years.

In 2010, Yum! Brands agreed to pay $14 million over ten years, or about one third of the total revenue Leib Advisors estimated in 2008.  What was a $1.4 million annual revenue stream for the LAA reduces to $1.1 million in 2020 and disappears entirely next year.

Of course, the LAA is now free to find a new naming rights sponsor.  But I wouldn’t want that job.

Not only has the arena ceased operations temporarily, but after a tough economic stretch in 2020, the surrounding areas have fallen on tough times, thus potentially creating a less attractive option for potential suitors.

And let’s not forget, the LAA is competing somewhat with the University of Louisville for a sponsor to rename the football stadium.  (What was that guy’s name?)  That’s not good timing for either party.

If you’ve attended a U of L basketball game recently, you heard the smooth delivery of Sean Moth’s “the nation’s most beautiful arena—the KFC Yum! Center” before the playing of the national anthem.  In those ten years, most of us have fond memories of games and seasons played in the downtown arena.  And that’s the way we have to refer to the building after September 30th.

Those events and experiences now form the complete body of work for what was once the KFC Yum! Center.

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