Nationwide Arena has hosted several basketball games in its' 12-year history including the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament seen here in 2012. (File Photo)
So the mayor of Columbus, Michael Coleman, would like a National Basketball Association franchise in his fair city.
Really? I guess it’s always nice to dream big.
The fact of the matter remains, Columbus is a small market that already has a winter season sport occupying Nationwide Arena. In case Mayor Coleman forgot, the city still has an NHL franchise, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman has told the NBA that Columbus wants a basketball team now that the ink is dry on the public purchase of Nationwide Arena. Coleman sent NBA Commissioner David Stern a letter last Thursday expressing the city’s desire to move a franchise here or add a new team if the league expands.
A spokeman from the Mayor’s Office, Dan Williamson, had this to say:
“Up until recently, our arena situation was not stable. Now that that changed, the mayor felt it was time to position ourselves to be on the NBA’s radar. The NBA needs to know more about us, so he has had conversations with NBA officials.”
There’s one major problem, though. NBA commissioner David Stern has said repeatedly over the last few years that the league isn’t looking to expand. That means Columbus would have to lure an existing NBA franchise to the city.
Currently, there are 30 teams in the NBA. One team wanting to relocate, the Sacramento Kings, appears to be heading to Anaheim, Calif. Then there’s Seattle, which lost its NBA franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008 and would love a new team in their city. One investor has already pledged $600 million for a new arena in Seattle.
While Columbus wouldn’t be the smallest market in the NBA, if a current franchise relocated to the Capital City, it’s still in the bottom third. With a metro population of around 1.9 million, there a seven smaller markets in the NBA with Charlotte, Indianapolis, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City all ranking lower than Columbus.
Of course, neither of those cities listed above also have an NHL franchise.
So what does this mean for the Columbus Blue Jackets? Will they be around much longer? Is the handwriting on the wall? Is Mayor Coleman being proactive in his quest to bring another tenant to Nationwide Arena, so the facility doesn’t go without one someday?
All of those are very good questions, but getting an NBA team to come to Columbus seems highly unlikely.