LEXINGTON, Ky. — When Rupp Arena and Central Bank Center restart their engines after the COVID-19 shutdown, there will be a marked change in some personnel. After serving multiple decades in their respective positions, three longtime managers of the complex have recently retired and three veteran staff members have been promoted.
Merrill Richardson, the company’s longest-serving employee, has worked devotedly as director of facilities since the venue first opened its doors in 1976. Merrill had a full career before starting with Lexington Center. He was the chief electrician/sound engineer from 1960-1972 with Holiday on Ice before settling in Atlanta in 1972-75 to work as director of engineering for the Omni Arena. During his 44-plus-year tenure with Rupp Arena and the Central Bank Center, he served as a consultant during construction and was responsible for designing the infrastructure systems (engineering, HVAC, technical, video and IT support) for the entire facility. Richardson is well-respected by the many construction and maintenance companies that worked at Central Bank Center for his vast knowledge and understanding of all operational aspects of the complex. Richardson retired effective Aug. 1. He will, however, continue to serve as a consultant through the conclusion of the current Convention Center Expansion Project.
Bob Stoops, technical services manager, has been on staff at the center for 42 years. He worked at Rupp Arena first as a part-time stagehand while attending UK, and later joined the staff full-time in 1978. He was responsible for all technical aspects of every event whether it be in Rupp Arena, the Convention Center or the Lexington Opera House. Throughout his career, he has worked with countless production tour managers, artists, rodeo stars, circus clowns, ice skaters and Monster Truck drivers. Of his many notable achievements, in 2010 Stoops took over the development and technical direction of staging one of UK’s signature events, Big Blue Madness. In 2014, under Stoops’ leadership, The Kentucky Arts Council honored the Central Bank Center/Rupp Arena Technical Services Department with a Governor’s Arts & Culture Award. Stoops’ officially retired July 31.
Jeff Bojanowski, ticket office manager, is a graduate of UK and was one of the first members of the Student Activities Board where he promoted many different campus events. He worked for Sunshine Promotions in various roles including ticket manager for outlet sales in the early years of ticketing distribution. In August 1984, he was hired by Lexington Center Corporation and became an instrumental member of the team. Throughout his tenure, he has experienced many changes and challenges in the ticketing industry. Rupp Arena was one of the first arenas in the Midwest to convert to electronic ticketing with Ticketmaster in 1987. Under Bojanowski’s leadership, the box office transitioned from pre-printed hard tickets for events, to computerized ticketing that would eventually evolve into online ticketing. Bojanowski and his team have had the opportunity to work with two professional hockey teams and one indoor football team handling all aspects of ticket sales for each organization. They continue to work with the University of Kentucky for sales of both mens’ and womens’ basketball and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association for both the boys’ and girls’ annual Sweet Sixteen tournaments. In addition, Bojanowski has worked with countless major concert promoters and tour accountants throughout his 36 years of experience. Bojanowski retired July 31.
“These three employees have over 120 combined years of outstanding service to the Lexington community. They have provided strategic leadership through the early days of Lexington Center Corporation and have continued to the present to provide valuable counsel to the board and our staff,” said President and CEO Bill Owen. “I want to publicly thank Merrill Richardson, Bob Stoops and Jeff Bojanowski for their service and dedication to serving our customers and clients and helping grow Central Bank Center and Rupp Arena into Kentucky’s premier entertainment destination.”
Owen announced that the three vacated positions will be filled by promoting three employees who have worked in the facility for many years.
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Michael Fox has been promoted to director of facilities support, overseeing systems maintenance, network and IT departments. Fox first joined Lexington Center Corporation in 1980 as a part-time concession stock worker while attending college at UK. He graduated in 1986 with a BS in Computer Science. In December of 1987, Fox began working full-time at Lexington Center as a systems administrator, eventually becoming the information services manager. Having worked under Merrill Richardson’s tutelage for decades, Fox possesses a depth of experience in both the venues and the live events business that brings continuity to the role of facilities director. Fox also adds a wealth of knowledge of technology and systems, which is critical to the success of any organization and helps set LCC up for years of success and growth.
Chuck Hisle has been promoted to technical services manager, succeeding Bob Stoops. Hisle has worked in the Tech Department at Central Bank Center for 11 years. In his previous role at the Center, Hisle was responsible for all aspects of video production ranging from equipment installation and maintenance to programming and operations. He also simultaneously worked as a tech coordinator for arena shows, overseeing all technical aspects of hosting major touring concerts and family shows. Hisle graduated from Central Kentucky Vocational/Technical College with a degree in electronics. He began his career working at WKYT in production and later moved to the engineering/maintenance department. In 1995, he took a similar position with Lexmark International where he worked for five years before returning to WKYT in 2000. In 2009, Hisle made a move to Central Bank Center’s Tech Department and has been an integral member of the award-winning team ever since.
Shannon Elliott has been promoted to ticket office manager. Elliott brings 27 years of ticketing experience with Lexington Center Corporation. She began working at the box office part-time in 1993 while studying advertising at the University of Kentucky. In 1995, she moved into a full-time position and was named box office assistant manager in 2005. She has worked closely with the staff and clients for many years and endeavors to continue the legacy of excellence fostered by former Ticket Office Manager Jeff Bojanowski. Elliott brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in customer service and has a keen understanding of ticketing system efficiencies and department management.
According to Owen, “It is with great pleasure that I announce the promotions of three outstanding individuals from within the Lexington Center Corporation. Each of these employees possesses a depth of experience that is imperative as we navigate this major transition as an organization. I am confident that these talented individuals have the necessary ‘boots on the ground’ experience to fill the big shoes of their predecessors.”
Currently under construction and slated for completion in Spring 2022, the new Central Bank Center expansion will offer 100,000 s.f. of exhibition space, a beautiful new 25,000 s.f. grand ballroom, 25,000 s.f. of meeting space and 50,000 of hospitality space.
For more information, visit www.centralbankcenter.com