Rupp could be redone

By Patrick T. Sullivan

On the heels of UK men’s basketball team’s trip to the Final Four, Lexington announced Monday plans to examine renovating the Lexington Center and Rupp Arena.

To start what will be a $350,000 comprehensive study of the venue, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray assembled a 42-person task force fraught with industry leaders who Gray said know the arena best. The committee will be called the Arena, Arts and Entertainment Task Force.

“This task force will have a lot in common with our Final Four team,” Gray said. “We have a wealth of experience. These are people who are committed to our downtown and UK’s basketball program.”

The study will be funded with private donations, Gray said. Its results will be revealed early next year, but Gray said not to expect immediate action once the study is complete.

“Louisville’s KFC Yum Center was a five-year project,” he said, “This will not happen overnight.”

Gray said Lexington has 46 acres at its disposal, while Louisville only had seven for its new arena.

Lexington attorney and UK graduate Brent Rice will lead the committee. He called the team’s trip to the Final Four an omen to the committee and vowed to give UK the best venue.

“It has to be the gold standard, the best of the best,” he said.

To achieve this goal, Rice said money will be a major factor.

“We can dream and plan all we want, but we got to pay for it,” Rice said.

Gray also acknowledged potential financial constraints, saying the economy poses a tough test for the project, but the UK basketball brand will “win the day.”

President Lee Todd said he hopes the project eschews basketball.

“This is broader than basketball,” Todd said. “We really need a place in this city where top plays from New York can be performed.”

Efforts have been made to expand musical and artistic performances at UK, but the Lexington Center and Rupp Arena can hold larger audiences, Todd said.

In addition to expanding UK’s artistic capabilities, Todd hopes a renovated Lexington Center will provide students with a place to hang out.

Todd also acknowledged potential budgetary constraints, but like Gray and Rice, was confident any renovations or new arena will get funding.

“This is the best time to examine the future because we’re at the bottom,” he said.