No need to freak out about Wildcat Coal Lodge renovations, yet


Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget gave permission to UK to renovate some buildings on campus during the next two years. Wildcat Coal Lodge could see $21 million in renovations or expansions.

Opinions Staff

Feedback from students and Kentuckians showed concern for the decision to renovate the Wildcat Coal Lodge, now 4 years old. The truth is that there is no need to freak out; at least, not yet.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget approved UK’s request for $21 million dollar renovations to the building, and many in the state were left with a sour taste in their mouths.

“I feel like they definitely could spend it on something better,” said Aisatou Konate, an international studies freshman. “I feel like the athletes are coddled.”

Reactions on sites like Twitter, Reddit also expressed bewilderment for the decision.

Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones tweeted, “There may be a reason I don’t know, but $21 million for a new dorm strikes me as an odd way to spend limited funds.”

Related: Classroom buildings vie for million-dollar renovations

The university, however, provided justification for including those renovations.

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said any project for the next two years costing over $600,000 in cash must be included on the budget. Since Blazer dining hall is closing in 2018, athletes in the Wildcat Coal lodge will need a new and convenient eatery. And the renovations will be for this purpose.

Also, the funds for this project come solely from the athletics department, meaning that limited state funds will not be used for such an extravagant expenditure. At the same time, plans are still tentative, and the high cost of $21 million is an upper limit, Blanton said.

A more interesting question is where the renovations rank among the university’s priorities. Blanton said the university’s top priority is to lobby $125 million from the state for, “significant, phase 1 renovations of academic and other buildings in our campus core.”

Assistant athletics director Tony Neely said the priority of this project for the athletics department will be dependent on fundraising.

This fundraising will come from two sources, according to Blanton. Private donations could go toward the project, and revenue generated by the athletics department is also available.

Neely said the athletics department intends for the project to be financed with private gifts, but this statement is no guarantee. It would certainly be time for students and faculty to speak up if the athletics department utilizes its general revenue on this project while more longstanding projects, like a new baseball stadium and expanding the Boone Tennis Center, are left dry.

A further cause for concern is how a new eatery will affect our campus’ culture. The new facility will serve only athletes, further separating the divide between students and athletes.

While the renovation plans created a buzz around Kentucky (and much of the talk was too hasty), there are preventative measures to consider now about priority, funding and campus culture.

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