The Lexington Center Board announced its choice for an architect and construction company to redesign downtown. The plans call for a free-standing and renovated Rupp Arena and a convention center.
The architect, LA based NBBJ, calls Wednesday's announcement a defining moment for Lexington.
The announcement came with glitz and glamor, including images from NBBJ of what new a Rupp could look like.
NBBJ plans to keep the 23,500 seats, expand concourse space, redo the bowl, add chair-back seats, add luxury suites, install a new scoreboard above center-court, and other amenities. They hope to unveil the design before Big Blue Madness in the fall.
Hunt Construction will build NBBJ's plans. Hunt built Rupp Arena nearly 40 years ago.
"Just a big day for our state," exclaimed Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.
The announcement included a clip from Adolph Rupp.
"I want perfect attention to details," said Rupp.
Details are what announcement did not have.
"Of course challenges remain including the question of funding," said Governor Steve Beshear.
Brent Rice says he will announce a business plan within the next two months. Beshear says he will ask the state government to help. Part of the plan may call for donations.
"Green Bay Packers raised $62.5 million dollars in 48-hours on-line," said Rice.
He says adding a local sales tax to pay for renovations is off the table. Rice says construction will begin in the fall of 2014, and will be finished two years later. The architect says the work won't disrupt any UK games.
"It's going to move forward, and it's going to move forward quickly, and it's going to be an exciting one over the next several years," said Robert Mankin, from NBBJ.
What about UK? Nobody from the University spoke at the announcement. President Eli Capilouto and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart did not come. In their place, UK sent Finance and Administration Executive Vice-President Eric Monday. The Univeristy sent us a statement from Monday:
“Today marks another important step in the development of a compelling vision for our community. We have pledged to be partners in this process as we believe, along with Mayor Gray, that the futures of UK and Lexington are inextricably linked. We continue to have productive discussions with all of the partners involved about downtown and the role of the university. At the same time, we must continue to balance that partnership with the goals of the university. We must maintain the strong standards and operations established by our men's basketball and other programs and we must continue on the clear path set forth by our Board of Trustees, President Capilouto and the broad campus community: Our top priority for scarce state operating and capital dollars continues to be revitalizing our campus infrastructure to enhance the quality of the education, research and service we provide for Lexington and the Commonwealth.”
Beshear, Gray, and Rice say UK has been at the negotiating table. Rice says the Lexington Center Board respects UK's vision. We asked a university spokesperson why Monday went.
"He is the most appropriate person to represent the university at this announcement," said Jay Blanton.
One man stood in the back of the announcement protesting.
"What happens if they re-design this, and the University builds their own 20 years down the road," asked Don Pratt.
The architect says he considers a new Rupp and convention center one project.