After the Fischer Administration started saying out loud that a National Basketball Association team would be an economic developement slam dunk, WHAS TV magically acquired a “study” yesterday proving, shockingly, there’s no way Louisville can afford an NBA team.

From the WHAS piece:

A new study from Cambridge Economic Research showed a relatively unfavorable impact that an NBA team could have on Louisville. It concluded that Louisville could not sustain a pro franchise, stating: “With the regions fervent support of its local collegiate teams coupled with poor personal income numbers, it is far fetched to think that a Louisville citizen’s dollar can be stretched even further to support NBA tickets.”

Which makes us wonder, exactly, how Louisville can afford the $348 million KFC Yum! Center?

But that’s another post for another day.

WHAS reporter Maggie Ruper interviewed Gary Gupton – a former WHAS TV reporter  – who confirmed in no uncertain terms that an NBA team would be a disaster not just for Louisville, but for the entire state!

We’re not making this up.

Which begs two questions: 

Has U of L’s counterrattack against bringing professional sports in Louisville begun?

And is Paul Coomes now a sports expert as well as an expert on Fourth Street Live?

Our sources say the report, released by Boxcar PR, ties back directly to the University of Louisville.

“It appears as if (U of L Athletic Director Tom) Jurich is on the verge of launching a full-fledged, organized anti-NBA campaign with some deep-pocketed donors,” stated one source in an email.

We called Cambridge Economic Research in Boston to find out who’s behind the report, but the phone number on the firm’s website connects to the voice mail for a Margaret Collins, not a to a company office.

We called Boxcar PR owner Bob Gunnell, who agreed initially to talk about the report, but who never called back for the interview.

As we reported back in January, Gunnell is the same Bob Gunnell who was a partner in Peritus Public Relations, which had the University of Louisville Foundation as a major client.

U of L Foundation is not listed as a Boxcar client on its website, though the defunct Museum Plaza is.

Mark Hebert, U of L’s director of media relations, confirmed the U of L Foundation was a Peritus client, but added that currently, the foundation has no relationship with either Boxcar or Peritus.

Hebert added that he isn’t certain whether the University of Louisville Athletic Association, which receives the majority of revenue from KFC Yum! Center, has dealings with Boxcar.

U of L officials including Jurich oppose an NBA team playing the Yum! Center, contending the regional audience isn’t large enough to support both a college basketball program and a pro team.

Multiple sources told us U of L supporters Drs. Mark Lynn and Louis Benn, who own Dr. Bizer’s VisionWorld, paid for the report, a point Gunnell didn’t deny in a brief conversation.

No one answers the office number that’s listed on the Dr. Mark Lynn & Associates website. Calls to Dr. Bizer’s corporate headquarters in Houston were not returned.

So, the question remains, “What’s the  genesis of he report?” which the WHAS story attributes to anonymous U of L supporters.

“That is the big question,” said Chris Poynter, spokesman for Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer.

Gunnell met with Fischer one week ago, but refused to identify who was behind the report, Poynter said.

“What we want to know is, ‘Who funded the report?’ And, ‘Why did they fund it?’ ” Poynter said.

Several years ago, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, based in London, did a study examining whether Louisville can support an NBA team, Poynter said.

Now, Fischer wants to collaborate with Greater Louisville Inc. to “reengage” with the accounting firm to fund a “credible” report, Poynter said.

He reaffirmed the Fischer Administration’s position on an NBA team: As part of Louisville’s overall economic development strategy, the city needs to be ready should a team become available.