One of the first–and biggest–objections pro-NBA to Louisville supporters encounter is the fear that a Louisville NBA team would negatively impact the University of Louisville basketball program’s performance. This is a very legitimate concern but before the pros and cons can be argued, clear historical benchmarks need to be established.
From the 1970-71 basketball season through 1975-76 season, the Kentucky Colonels and Louisville Cardinals were co-tenants at the 16,664-seat Freedom Hall. And how did each do? Looking back at the data, both did pretty damned well.
The Kentucky Colonels played their first three seasons at the 5900-seat old Louisville Convention Center (current Louisville Gardens) before joining UofL at Freedom Hall for the 1970-71 season. During their three seasons at their inaugural home, they averaged 3225, 4157 and 3834 fans per game. Immediately upon moving to Freedom Hall, the Colonels almost doubled their previous season’s attendance to 7375 per game. The next year, during their legendary 68-16 regular season, the Colonels established a new attendance record with a league-leading 8811 per game, which would stand as their all-time season record. All told, over the course of six seasons, the Colonels averaged 7860 fans per game, good for second in the ABA over that time period behind only the Indiana Pacers, who averaged 8127 per game, and more than the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, New York Nets and Utah Stars–all ABA cities that eventually became NBA cities. Over that same period, the overall ABA average was 5858. Only once during that time period, during the Colonels’ final season, did they draw fewer fans per game than the ABA average (6935 per game versus 7264 in ’75-76).
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