Louisville airport renamed after Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali signs autographs for fans in 1979. Photo Credit: Scott Woodham Photography/Shutterstock

Louisville has made its airport's name The Greatest.

The board of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority voted Wednesday to rename the airport after the city's most famous son. The new name is Muhammad Ali International Airport. 

"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," Louisville mayor Greg Fischer said in a prepared statement. "It is important that we, as a city, further champion The Champ's legacy, and the airport renaming is a wonderful next step."

Ali, an Olympic gold medalist and three-time heavyweight boxing champion, was named Sportsman of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated. But he ultimately became known as much for his civil rights and humanitarian work as for his time in the ring. Ali was presented with the Medal of Freedom by president George W. Bush in 2005. He died in 2016. 

In announcing the airport name change, Fischer cited research that shows Ali has much higher name recognition than the city of Louisville itself.

The name change will be a boon to Louisville tourism, the local destination authority said. 

"Adding Muhammad Ali's name to the Louisville International Airport reminds travelers from around the world that our city is a place to have a touchpoint with one of the most recognized icons of all time," said Louisville Tourism CEO Karen Williams. "It supports current marketing efforts to engage in Ali's 'Footsteps of Greatness' as a reason to inspire visitation to Louisville." 

The Muhammad Ali Center, a museum and learning center dedicated to Ali's life and legacy, is one of the tourism anchors of downtown Louisville.

Muhammad Ali Airport will continue to go by its current code of SDF, rather than changing to ALI.

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