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There’s a new mascot on UK’s campus — but he can’t high-five fans or dance around in Rupp Arena. He is good to take photos with, however.
A bronze wildcat statue was installed across from Memorial Coliseum Tuesday, as one component of the Wildcat Alumni Plaza sponsored by the UK Alumni Association.
The plaza is set to be unveiled April 20, weather permitting, and will also feature brick pavers bought by students, alumni or other members of the UK community.
Matthew Gray Palmer, the statue’s sculptor, is from Washington state and has made statues for other universities’ mascots, including the University of New Hampshire Wildcat and the Texas State Bobcat. The wildcat statue took about nine months to create.
People stopped on the sidewalks of Avenue of Champions to take pictures of the statue installation, as Palmer and others worked to get it in place.
“I think it’s fabulous,” said Stan Key, executive director of the Alumni Association.
He said Palmer has been great to work with.
“One feature we all really wanted was detail, especially in the face and eyes,” Key said.
The statue also depicts a wildcat standing on a log, rather than on a stone or boulder as is typical, he said.
The idea for the statue and plaza came from the Leadership Summit and the Emerging Leader Institute student groups, Key said, which recommended a bronze wildcat statue that students and alumni can identify with.
“We as an alumni association know from other universities how sculptures like this build loyalty and support,” he said.
The total project cost $300,000, he said, and money raised from the brick pavers will go toward scholarships. He said the gifts were originally going to the alumni association to help offset the cost of the project, but “we decided it was more important to go to scholarships.”
The inner circle of the plaza will contain 2,300 pavers, and more will be placed in other parts of the plaza. Key said the association has received $70,000 from them so far and hopes to get $50,000 to $70,000 each subsequent year through paver gifts.
Pavers can be purchased at www.wildcatalumniplaza.com.