NBA's Hornets co-owner courted other cities, report says

Wednesday, March 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ NBA Hornets co-owner Ray Wooldridge said he hasn't negotiated with any other city about moving the team, but a newspaper report said he visited two cities to discuss relocation.

Wooldridge went to Memphis and Louisville during the past year to hear proposals to build a new arena for the team, The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday.

``Ray visited Louisville months ago to check out the community and various sites,'' said attorney Ed Glasscock, chairman of Greater Louisville Inc., the regional chamber of commerce.

Memphis officials said Wooldridge came to the city about a month ago.

To meet an NBA deadline Monday, Wooldridge applied for permission to move the Hornets to Memphis. He says he wants to keep the team in Charlotte and filed to relocate to hedge against the possibility that voters reject a new arena in a June referendum.

The Vancouver Grizzlies also applied on Monday to move to Memphis.

An NBA spokesman said that as far as he knew, the Hornets could only play in Memphis or Charlotte next season because they specifically applied to move to Memphis.

Wooldridge, who has consistently said he wasn't negotiating with other cities, refused to return telephone calls to the newspaper.

The citywide nonbinding vote, scheduled for June 5, will ask Charlotte residents if they want to use $342 million to pay for a new arena and six other projects for the city center.

Negotiations also are under way to buy out Hornets co-owner George Shinn, of Jupiter, Fla., and Wooldridge. A small group of businessmen, including Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr., are trying to find local owners for the Hornets.

A team official said, however, that Shinn and Wooldridge had no plans to sell the franchise.

``Both owners said they won't be selling the team,'' Bob Bass, the team's vice president of basketball operations, said Tuesday in Texas before the Hornets-San Antonio Spurs game.