Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Officials in Louisville, Ky., want the world to know the city is the hometown of boxing champion Muhammad Ali, and they will change the name of the airport to cement that fact.
"Muhammad Ali belonged to the world, but he only had one hometown, and fortunately, that is our great city of Louisville," Mayor Greg Fisher 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."
Lonnie Ali, the boxer's widow, said she's proud of the name change. Although Ali was a "global citizen," she said, he never forgot where he came from.
The Louisville Regional Airport Authority board started discussing the change in November 2017. Ali, also known as "The Greatest of All Time" and "the Champ," would have been 77 years old on Thursday. He died in 2016.
Board member Dale Boden said research found Ali is "universally recognized" and "remembered positively by the vast majority" of people, though many don't know he grew up in Louisville. Eventually, the city could increase its tourism profile by attaching itself to Ali, Boden said.
"We felt a clear takeaway was that the profile of our city could be greatly enhanced by associating Ali's name with our airport," he said.
Officials need to finalize an agreement with Muhammad Ali Enterprises for use of his name and likeness, but Dan Mann, executive director of the airport authority, said they are 99 percent there.
The name change will cost about $100,000 for new marketing and branding elements, which will be part of a larger $100 million remodel of the airport.
Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on Jan. 17, 1942. In 1964, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he converted to Islam. He famously refused to fight in the Vietnam War and was banned from boxing for three years during the prime of his career.