Groundbreaking begins on new convention center

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LEXINGTON, KY (WTVQ) — The Lexington Center broke ground Thursday on the long awaited, highly anticipated $241 million replacement and expansion of the Lexington Convention Center.

The single largest capital public improvement project in Lexington’s history, this project is expected to elevate Lexington’s convention facilities, bringing a new level of vitality to downtown and strengthening Lexington as a convention and meeting destination.

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While the need to expand and update the convention center had been in discussion for many years, the project fulfills one of Mayor Jim Gray’s original initiatives to reinvigorate the city’s core, reinvent Rupp Arena, incorporate Town Branch Commons into the plan and upgrade the convention facility and the arena to “world class” standards.

“With vision, hard work, persistence and determination, dreams can come true,” Gray said. “Today is evidence of it. We’re delivering on our promises.”

The convention center is the largest economic development project in the state. “This will create jobs now and into the future. Jobs that will help us grow our quality of life,” Gray said.

Combined with construction of Town Branch Commons beginning next month on Midland, the work that is currently going on at the new multi-use City Centre project, the continuing reinvention of the Distillery District, and work underway on a downtown movie complex near Rupp, hundreds of millions of investment in downtown Lexington will be completed over the next 3 years.

The new facility is projected to increase the annual economic impact of the center by $58 million, and will help Lexington remain competitive and attract more convention business that represents a significant portion of the state’s tourism business.

With its dramatic, light-filled, architectural statement, the new expanded Lexington Convention Center designed by NBBJ Architects of Los Angeles, CA and EOP Architects, will offer 100,841 sq ft of exhibition space, 25,080 sq ft of ballroom space, 26,756 sq ft of meeting spaces, 57,615 sq. ft of hospitality space and will comprise more than 200,000 square feet when completed.

The project is designed to better connect Rupp Arena and the Convention Center to downtown. The parks and plazas that weave through it will provide new public gathering spots. They include the “Cat Walk,” an exterior stair and gathering spot outside of Rupp Arena; a new outdoor space at the Convention Center called the “Gorge” that also provides outdoor exhibit space; interactive water features; an extension of the Town Branch Trail; and, in the future, the planned Town Branch Park.

The convention center and Rupp Arena will remain open throughout the 42-month construction period while the project is carried out in phases.  The projected is scheduled for completion in November of 2021.