ST. LOUIS — As the National Basketball Association reopens the discussion of potential expansion into new markets, it so far has no apparent takers in St. Louis.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters last month the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wreaked financial havoc on the professional sports industry, has prompted the league to look into the economic benefits of expansion. And already, grassroots efforts are underway in Kansas City and Louisville to position their cities as possible landing spots for the NBA.
But so far, no similar efforts have emerged in St. Louis, at least publicly.
A St. Louis NBA franchise would likely play at Enterprise Center, which is operated by the NHL's St. Louis Blues, but a spokesman said the team has not been contacted about any NBA interest. Officials with the St. Louis Sports Commission, an independent nonprofit that works to recruit major sporting events to the region, also said the commission is "not aware of any groups or individuals trying to bring an NBA team to St. Louis."
Prominent Saint Louis University benefactor and Chaifetz Arena namesake Richard Chaifetz told the Business Journalin 2019 that he’d “love to be involved with a team in St. Louis in the NBA.” And his son, Ross Chaifetz, has liked and responded to recent tweets about his family potentially bringing a team to St. Louis. But he has not responded to requests for comment regarding whether the family intends to actively engage in the NBA expansion discussion.
It also might be premature.
In discussing expansion, Silver noted the financial plight brought on by the pandemic has prompted the league to "dust off" some analyses of the competitive and economic impacts of expansion. But the issue, he said, is not yet on the league's "front burner."
Expansion could also be more expensive than ever. A report published by ESPN earlier this month indicated the league is exploring a fee of at least $2.5 billion per expansion franchise in upcoming years.
Today, St. Louis is one of the biggest U.S. metros areas without an NBA club. And it's no stranger to attempts to lure a team to town. Former St. Louis Blues owner Bill Laurie in 1999 unsuccessfully tried to purchase the then-Vancouver Grizzlies and relocate them to St. Louis. In 2001, local leaders met with a co-owner of Charlotte Hornets to pitch St. Louis as a relocation destination for the team, which eventually moved to New Orleans.
If the league decides to go through with expansion, the competition is already expected to be stiff. Pundits have speculated that Seattle, formerly home to NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics before the team relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008, is a shoo-in. Some reports have indicated multiple ownership groups could make bids for teams in Las Vegas and Seattle.
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