UK President Criticizes Rupp Project

The president of the University of Kentucky is criticizing how the Rupp Arena planning has been handled.

He wrote his thoughts in a letter to the chairman of the Lexington Center Corporation Tuesday; ABC 36 got a copy of it Thursday.

In the letter, UK President Eli Capilouto said the university is ready to move forward with more talks about the renovation project.

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The letter starts firing at Brent Rice, chairman of the Lexington Center Corporation.

“Thank you for your April 25th letter regarding the Lexington Center Corporation’s (LCC) inability to persuade the Kentucky General Assembly to invest $65 million (and then $80 million) in the downtown project; and the confusion this has created,” stated the opening line of the letter.

In a letter to Capilouto dated April 25, Brent Rice, chairman of the Lexington Center Corporation, asked President Capilouto is the University would be willing to talk about an extension of the current lease.

UK’s current lease with Rupp expires after the 2017-2018 basketball season.

In Capilouto’s response, he said more discussions are needed.

The letter said there is not enough public interest in the renovations and there is a lack of financial stability in the project.

In the letter, Capilouto said basketball is not the only sport at the school and that the university’s main focus is academics and that the school would not raise athletic ticket prices to generate money for the proposed $350 million renovation.

He said the university wants to keep men’s basketball downtown but right now, he said it is important to explore all potential options.

The Lexington Center Corporation RUPP District Committee sent ABC 36 the following response:
“The Lexington Center Corporation RUPP District Committee met this morning and will be forwarding its response to the University of Kentucky soon. As we have said from the beginning, this is a very complex project. For over three years many community leaders have contributed towards bringing to reality the single most significant economic development opportunity in this city’s history. The Lexington Center Corporation Board of Directors remains committed to pursuing what is best for Lexington.”
Mayor Jim Gray, who has been a big supporter of the renovations, sent ABC 36 this response:
“Game-changing projects create passion and emotion, especially when things don’t go as hoped, so I think it’s important to step back, take a deep breath, and sit down with all our partners and work things out.  UK is so important to Lexington; and Lexington is so important to UK. A vibrant city engages everyone — students, fans, families, faculty and staff — and a vibrant city creates jobs.  So I hope we can continue to work on an agreement that benefits UK, Lexington, and our entire state.”
No word on when these extra talks will start.