Muhammad Ali once said his “greatness came and started in Louisville.”
Now his name will be among the first things visitors and travelers see when they fly into his beloved hometown.
City officials announced Wednesday that Louisville International Airport will be renamed after the boxer and humanitarian often called “the Greatest.”
The new name: Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.
“Muhammad Ali belonged to the world, but he only had one hometown, and fortunately, that is our great city of Louisville,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “Muhammad became one of the most well-known people to ever walk the Earth and has left a legacy of humanitarianism and athleticism that has inspired billions of people.
“It is important that we, as a city, further champion The Champ’s legacy,” Fischer continued. “And the airport renaming is a wonderful next step.”
The Louisville Regional Airport Authority board approved Fischer’s motion that the airport be renamed. But the SDF code will not change, officials said.
An airport authority working group began meeting in November 2017 to consider renaming the airport after Ali, whose birthday would have been Thursday.
Board member Dale Boden said the group’s research and surveys of local and national audiences revealed that while Ali is “universally recognized” and “remembered positively by the vast majority” of people, the majority do not know Ali is from Louisville.
“We felt a clear takeaway was that the profile of our city could be greatly enhanced by associating Ali’s name with our airport,” Boden said, adding that officials hope the name change will eventually result in increased traffic at the airport “as the city increases the promotion of tourism related to Muhammad Ali.”
Dan Mann, executive director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority, said the airport must notify the Federal Aviation Administration of the name change. FAA approval should come fairly quickly, Mann said, as the SDF code will not change.
Officials must then finalize an agreement with Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC for use of Ali’s name and likeness, Mann said.
“I think we are 99 percent there with that agreement, so that would really be the second step which we think we can execute in the next week or two,” Mann said.
The agreement with Ali’s representatives will be in perpetuity and have no associated fees, Mann said.
Finally, officials will spend $100,000 to change the airport’s marketing and branding elements over the next two to three months to reflect Ali’s presence and align with city tourism efforts, Mann said.
Costs with incorporating Ali’s name and brand will also be rolled into the $100 million project to upgrade the airport’s terminal, jetways, rental car area, elevators and moving walkways over the next three to five years, Mann said. A new international port of entry at Louisville’s airport is also in the works.