Home » Mayor suspends work on Rupp Arena, convention center project

Mayor suspends work on Rupp Arena, convention center project

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 18, 2014) — Mayor Jim Gray today suspended work on the project to reinvent Rupp Arena and build a new convention center. The move came after the University of Kentucky withdrew its support for a proposed annual $10.7 million lease at Rupp Arena, beginning in 2018.

In recent meetings with Gray and Gov. Steve Beshear, UK relayed the decision it had changed its mind about the lease, Gray said. “We designed this arena based on what UK said they needed. But I understand timing and pacing are everything, especially with major projects like this. So we’ll adjust and adapt,” Gray said.

Rupp Arena - Evening Birdseye
An architect’s rendering of proposed renovations to Rupp Arena.

In the separate meetings with Gray and the governor, UK discussed a much smaller project … perhaps 10-15 percent of the university’s original investment in the project under the lease, Gray said.

Beshear said, “I think the original project is still what Lexington and the university need, and in time, I hope UK will be ready to move forward.”

Gray said he supports the original plan because it would create permanent jobs and opportunities for Fayette County and the Bluegrass Region. “The plan addressed the declining competitiveness of the arena and convention center,” he said.

Gray said although there is some disappointment that the city can’t move forward now, the city is poised with a good plan. “I’ve learned after 850 projects in my construction career, never to fall in love with a project. We need to move on. And when the time is right, the plan is ready,” he said. “It’s all about economic development and job growth.”

Moving on means the city will focus on the assets it has. “The Town Branch Park and the 20-acre High Street parking lot present a lot of development opportunities to lift our economy and create jobs for our citizens, and enhance the arts and entertainment and mixed use development in the city,” he said.

Announcing that work on the project is suspended also allows Lexington Center to get back to the business of scheduling conventions, meetings, concerts and events. The Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau and Lexington Center are now scheduling events for 2015 and 2016.

“Lexington Center needs clarity, needs uncertainty removed, so they can sell conventions and conferences for next year and beyond,” Gray said.