Columbus mayor Michael B. Coleman has informed NBA commissioner David Stern that his city is interested in adding an NBA franchise, according to Lucas Sullivan and Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch. Coleman sent a letter to the league Thursday expressing a desire to move a team to Columbus or add a new franchise if the league expands.
The city recently completed the public purchase of the Nationwide Arena, the home of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, and is looking to add a basketball team now that the arena is on "sound financial footing."
"Up until recently, our arena situation was not stable," said Coleman spokesman Dan Williamson. "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."
Co-existing with the city's NHL club, finding money to buy an NBA team, and receiving approval from the Cavaliers are among the roadblocks Columbus would face if it seriously pursued an NBA franchise. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said he'd "have to think about" whether he would oppose having another NBA team in Ohio. Additionally, Stern has maintained that expansion beyond 30 teams is unlikely, a view echoed today by Tim Frank, the league's vice president of communications.
"At the moment, we have no plans to expand, and no teams have applied for relocation," Frank said. "So it wouldn’t be prudent to comment on the possibilities of another market."
Currently, the Sacramento Kings seem like the team most likely to consider relocation, after the city's proposal for a new arena fell apart last month. However, the Kings' owners continue to insist they want to make things work in Sacramento; and even if that stance were to change, cities like Anaheim, Seattle, and Vancouver, among others, would be vying for the franchise.
As the Dispatch report points out, Columbus should have the population to support an NBA franchise, since seven teams play in cities with smaller metropolitan areas: Charlotte, Indianapolis, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City. Still, I expect Columbus will trail at least Anaheim and Seattle in the pecking order for an NBA team, so this figures to be a long shot for the city.