Task force discusses plans for Rupp Arena, downtown



By Chase Sanders

The Lexington Arts & Entertainment Task Force discussed the terms of progress Thursday for the potential of a new downtown district, which may include a new Rupp Arena.

Among those speaking at the public forum was Space Group co-founder Gary Bates.

As the project’s master architect, Bates made a presentation to members of the Lexington community about the downtown district development plan options.

He made it clear that the aim of the project is not only to revamp or reconstruct the Mecca of basketball, but also to make the area from Newtown Pike to Woodland Avenue more accessible and attractive to the community and the university.

“Everything that we’re doing is directly involved with UK,” Bates said. “The school is such a major driver of the city, itself.”

He discussed everything from expanding the trolley line, to adding more bicycle paths and creating more pedestrian walkways that are all meant to make UK closer to the downtown district despite the distance between them.

Bates wants to implement as much growth as he can for now and the future with regard to UK and the metropolitan area.

“In terms of the development of the school, one of the things we looked at previously was the expansion of the UK law school as well,” he said.

Some of the main ideas Space Group has for connecting the UK campus to downtown Lexington concerns pre-game and post-game activities.

“The possibility of the Cat Walk is a kind of physical manifestation between the connection between UK and the city,” Bates said.

The so called “Cat Walk” will serve for the purpose of a “procession to the arena and entertainment district” before and after games, Bates said.

Its most likely location will be along Maxwell and it will cut through the current High St. parking lot.

He admits that with the two entities being about a twelve minute walk away from each other it will mean come other types of commercial developments will need to take place as well.

“There seems to be a split there between the two and that’s why we came up with the idea of the Cat Walk,” Bates said.

He pointed out that the area surrounding Rupp Arena will need to serve as a way to keep fans downtown at the conclusion of UK basketball games, so there can be economic growth in the city.

“The arts and entertainment district has to have diversity within it,” Bates said. “It can’t just cater to one audience. That’s the exciting thing about Lexington, and that’s the exciting thing about the area downtown – the diversity. UK automatically brings that idea, because it is so diverse.”

Even though everyone is talking a lot about buildings right now, Bates feels that it is important that “we make good use of the outdoor space we have to use to connect the campus to the arena and downtown.”

“I think it’s important that things are multipurpose and multiuse,” he said. “That’s one of the things we’re most excited about and will give downtown a new identity.”

Mayor Jim Gray is also very enthusiastic about the principle concept that UK will be more connected to downtown than it currently is.

“That connection to the UK’s vitality and the vitality that the arts and entertainment district together makes for a lot of exciting potential,” Gray said.