St. Louis — Charlotte Hornets co-owner Ray Woodlridge would not say Wednesday which city is the front-runner to land the NBA team if it moves. That should be news to people in Louisville, who were under the impression that they held that distinction.
Given the chance to pick between St. Louis, Louisville, Ky., or any other city, Woodlridge declined after meeting with St. Louis Blues owner Bill Laurie and Mayor Francis Slay.
Wooldridge who said he remains committed to finding the Hornets a new home by Jan. 1 had previously named Louisville as his top choice.
"The negotiations are in various stages with each of the other cities," Wooldridge said. "The markets are so distinctively different."
In St. Louis, Wooldridge said, "You have a tremendous fan base and a huge market. The only thing you are missing is an NBA team to fill the void. We see it as a super town."
Wooldridge called his previous comments about Louisville's lead over cities an "expression of the process." He said his franchise needs to consider several factors, including the team's new arena and naming-rights partner, as well as corporate and community support.
"At that point in time, Louisville had been in this process much longer than the other cities," Wooldridge said.
Laurie, in his second meeting with Wooldridge, made a presentation that featured Slay and a large contingent of business and community leaders. Wooldridge called the discussions preliminary, but said he would meet again with Laurie and is "very much interested in pursuing the conversation.
"Your reputation speaks for itself," Wooldridge said. "No one ever doubted that St. Louis was a tremendous sports city."
The NBA has not had a franchise in St. Louis since 1968, when the Hawks left for Atlanta. Wooldridge has until March 1 to apply for relocation with the NBA for the 2002-03 season.
Wooldridge was to return to Louisville today to meet with that city's Board of Aldermen.