Home » Bill Gatton Foundation donates $14.5M to Lexington’s downtown park

Bill Gatton Foundation donates $14.5M to Lexington’s downtown park

10-acre site behind Rupp Arena is now known at Gatton Park on Town Branch
The 10-acre Gatton Park at Town Branch between Main and High streets behind Rupp Arena will include an amphitheater with offices and community room, restored Town Branch waterway, spaces for adult, child and pet recreation, and reflect indigenous plants and geology.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Bill Gatton Foundation has made a transformational gift to Town Branch Park, the new 10-acre park being built in the parking lot behind Rupp Arena.

The park will now be named “Gatton Park on the Town Branch.”

“I have made dozens of trips to Lexington with Mr. Gatton over the past 36 years,” said Danny L. Dunn, trustee of The Bill Gatton Foundation. “It did not matter whether the trip was for business, charity or to go to a University of Kentucky game, he always looked forward to visiting Lexington. He had a great love and appreciation for the city.”

“If Mr. Gatton were here today, he would tell you that Lexington has been good to him, and he is pleased that he can help fund the cost of this new park. He would be honored and humbled that the park officials would want to name the park ‘Gatton Park on the Town Branch.’ This park will be a tremendous asset for the city and the people of Lexington. The Bill Gatton Foundation is grateful to be a part of what will be a beautiful place where people of all ages can spend time that will be peaceful, quiet, fun and full of special activities.” 

The $14.5 million donation, which is pledged over several years starting in 2025, will help the organization complete Phase I and Phase II of its capital campaign, including $7 million for an operational reserve and the seeding of the park’s endowment. The remainder of the funds will go toward planned capital improvements and the park’s future office space, which will be located on or near the park.

“This incredible gift allows our organization to focus our future fundraising efforts on an annual sustainability campaign and growing our endowment, which will ensure the park will be operated, programmed, maintained and sustained at the highest standards for decades to come,” said Allison Lankford, executive director of the park.

“Mr. Gatton loved Lexington. One of the goals of his foundation is to build community, and that is exactly what this park will do through the welcoming space and diverse, enriching programs we provide to all segments of our community. This gift will benefit residents and visitors to Lexington for generations to come and is yet another example of Mr. Gatton’s tremendous legacy of philanthropy that makes a lasting impact and improves people’s lives.”

The park also unveiled a new logo and signage to reflect the name change in honor of Mr. Gatton’s birthday, which would have been May 25.

“While we understand many will reference the park as Gatton Park going forward, we intentionally kept Town Branch in the name to pay homage to its history and location as well as to reflect what we have affectionately called this space for many years — back when it was just a dream,” Lankford added. “It is through the generosity of The Bill Gatton Foundation and so many others that we are one step closer to making the park a reality.”

Construction of the park is underway and anticipated to be completed in late summer 2025.  

Gatton Park on the Town Branch is being built by the community for the community with private donations. Led by civic leaders and philanthropists, Gatton Park on the Town Branch is working to transform acres of parking in the Manchester Parking Lot behind Rupp Arena into an inviting, dynamic, fun, and uncommonly beautiful green space that will reflect the culture and spirit of Lexington. The Park will be funded, programmed and maintained through private donations and grants. Visit www.gattonpark.org for more information.

The Bill Gatton Foundation honors the life and legacy of Carol Martin “Bill” Gatton, a successful businessman, generous philanthropist, and bridge builder. Visit https://www.billgattonfoundation.org/ for more information.