Fayette County

Pro basketball team gets a glittery Lexington intro

Music from the Central Kentucky rock band Swing Street blared, 14 scantily clad cheerleaders shook their pompoms and eager fans noisily waited for Lexington's latest entertainment option.

The event Sunday afternoon at the Kentucky Horse Park's indoor arena marked the inaugural game for the Bluegrass Stallions, an American Basketball Association team.

"Are you ready for some basketball?" shouted Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry over the arena's loud speaker before the game began against the Music City Stars, a Nashville-based team.

Newberry reminded the crowd that sports history was being made in Central Kentucky with the debut of Lexington's first pro basketball team.

Tony Chase, a Lexington resident who owns the Stallions and the Music City Stars, was ecstatic.

"Fans here should expect more than fast-paced, very physical professional basketball from big-name, area players in a good league," said Chase, a native of Eminence who made his money in the health-care industry.

"Fans should expect a live band before each and every game, entertainment at halftime and at other breaks, good concessions and souvenirs — a lot of good, clean family fun at reasonable prices."

Tickets to a Stallions game cost $12 for adults and $8 for young people. A Stallions T-shirt is $15, soft drinks $3 and a hot dog $3.

Van Alford and Will Hopkins of Lexington came early Sunday to soak in the atmosphere.

"Central Kentucky, with its love for basketball, deserves this," Alford said. "This arena is awesome, a great place for basketball. I think this will go over very well in time."

About 2,600 people were in the 8,000-seat arena for the first Stallions game. Chase gave away about 1,000 tickets to military families.

"We're hoping word of mouth will carry us a long way," he said.

Fans who did show up Sunday saw a lot of glitz.

The Stallions players emerged from a huge stretch limo before their introduction.

Some, like Ravi Moss and Lukasz Obrzut, had played for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

Last to pop out onto the floor was Coach Kyle Macy, who helped UK win the 1978 NCAA championship and formerly coached at Morehead State. His assistant was another former University of Kentucky star, Jay Shidler.

Coaching the Music City Stars was Jan van Breda Kolff, who was a star player at Vanderbilt University.

After all the pre-game hoopla, the Stallions struggled on the court. They lost 128-87.

The fans, who were pumped up before the inaugural game, were subdued as the Stallions lost.

Perhaps, on this first venture into pro basketball in Lexington, Chase and his Stallions can take solace in knowing that it usually takes time — and wins — for the fans to fall in love.