Lonely Planet Writer

Louisville's Muhammad Ali Center is expanding to cope with demand

The Louisville-based museum that honours world champion boxer Muhammad Ali will briefly shut its doors from mid-January to carry out renovations, after a spike in museum visitors since the athlete’s death last year.

Ali taunts Sonny Liston during their fight in Maine in May, 1965
Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over Sonny Liston during their title fight in May, 1965. Ali knocked Liston out in one minute in the first round during their bout at the Central Maine Youth Center in Lewiston, Maine. Photo by: Bettmann/Getty Images

“Since the late, great Muhammad Ali passed away on 3 June 2016, the Muhammad Ali Center has experienced a significant increase in museum visitors, retail sales, and private use of our event spaces,” explained Ali Center spokesperson Jeanie Kahnke, “but more importantly, the centre is seeing increased interest in Muhammad’s legacy”.

The Muhammad Ali Center has been open for 12 years, showcasing the achievements of the three-time heavyweight champion, global humanitarian, and cultural icon. The heavy foot traffic has caused normal wear and tear on the building. “We felt that now was the time to make much-needed upgrades,” said Kahnke, “the timing of this also presented us the opportunity to remodel other areas of the centre to provide a better overall visitor experience for our guests.”

The Muhammad Ali Center at night
The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Image courtesy of Muhammad Ali Center

The museum will only be closed to the general public for one week, between 8 January and 14 January, while the centre prepares for the refurbishments. It will re-open to the public on 15 January, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Refurbishments will include a brand new main lobby, a redesigned Ali Center Store, and a Group Entrance. The new additions will take roughly three months to complete. Visitors to the centre can still access most areas of the building, including its two and a half levels of exhibits, which include exhibitions about Muhammad’s six core principles – confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, giving, and spirituality – many themes have interactive features.

Visitors can also explore Ali’s professional boxing career, a lifelong humanitarian timeline, the champ’s 1996 Olympic torch-lighting experience, a ‘Generation Ali’ interactive exhibit, and other pavilions that capture Ali’s iconic life. A favorite exhibit for young people, is the ‘Train With Ali’ area, where visitors can shadow box, hit the speed bag, or learn some punches with on-screen instruction by Ali’s daughter and former professional boxer Laila Ali.

A visitor checks out the 'Train with Ali' area at the Muhammad Ali Center
The ‘Train with Ali’ area. Image courtesy of the Muhammad Ali Center

The new improvements to the building “will create a more vibrant and impactful experience for our visitors,” said Donald Lassere, president and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center, “and we are grateful to our donors and other supporters who are making this possible.”

We can all learn from Muhammad Ali’s achievements and outlook on life, urged Kahnke. “Muhammad Ali’s impact on the world was huge, and in ways like no other… the Ali Center was designed to have visitors discover the unique attributes of Muhammad Ali and, in turn, to be inspired to explore their own personal greatness.”

For more information on the Muhammad Ali Center visit www.alicenter.org