SBD/April 17, 2014/Facilities

Lexington Mayor Pushing Forward On Rupp Upgrades Despite Failed Funding Vote

Original plans included a portion of the Rupp Arena project being completed by '17
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray yesterday said that he "plans to push forward" on a $310M proposed renovation of Rupp Arena and the attached Lexington Convention Center, but added that it is "too early to say how a lack of state funding will affect the timetable for the project," according to a front-page piece by Beth Musgrave of the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER. Gray's comments came "a day after the legislature failed to vote" on $80M in state aid for the project. Gray originally said that he "hoped that part of the project could be completed" as early as '17. He said, "It's a setback. The absence of the state funding definitely affects the schedule." But Gray said that he is "confident that the project will move forward." State Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr said that there was "some confusion on Rupp's financial plan," and added that delaying the project for a year would "allow the city an opportunity to further lobby the legislature, nail down its financial plan and gather more support in the community." Gray could "return as early as 2015 to secure funding for the project." Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear yesterday said it is "too early to determine if a special session on any topic is prudent or needed." State legislators had said that they "wanted to see a full financing plan and a signed lease agreement" between Rupp and its main tenant, the Univ. of Kentucky (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 4/17). UK Dir of PR & Marketing Jay Blanton in a statement yesterday said that the school's "top priority is state investment on campus." Kentucky state Sen. Tom Buford said that senators "sensed UK was concerned" that Beshear and Gray's plan for up to $80M in state bonds for Rupp "would work against the school's academic funding requests" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 4/17).

HOLDING OUT HOPE: A LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER editorial states yesterday's news "can't be the last word for this visionary project that promises to transform the west end of Lexington's downtown." Lexington "deserves the state's support for this project, but Gray and other local leaders must return to Frankfort with more things nailed down," including a "signed contract with UK." It also would be "good to have other pieces of the puzzle filled in, including how the proposed $35 million in fan support will be raised and a naming rights contract in hand" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 4/17).
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