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$65 million for Rupp renovation left out of new state budget deal

In the wee hours of the morning around 5 a.m., the hopes for $65 million to be set aside for Rupp Arena renovations were squandered, at least for now. After much debate, the $65 million Rupp Arena renovation project was left out of the new state budget deal. Robert Stivers, who was on KSR’s radio show last week, was a big reason behind the deal leaving out Rupp Arena.

“I think it’s responsible. It makes a pretty significant and strong statement toward education,” Senate President Robert Stivers told reports at the Capitol.

According to the Herald-Leader, the budget will include a small sum to be matched with local funds, so Lexington can move forward with more planning. In the same agreement that didn’t approve $65 million for Rupp though, $56 million more was approved for the Louisville Convention Center (H/T Matt Jones). So on an exciting day for Kentucky basketball, some unfortunate news about the renovation plans for Rupp Arena was released this morning.

Article written by Ally Tucker

I once successfully requested "The Wobble" to be played 6 times at one wedding.

86 responses to “$65 million for Rupp renovation left out of new state budget deal”

  1. bmack

    Wow. And Stivers voted for the UL/ Yum project, I believe. Very principled man. Thanks, Manchester, for voting for this guy. Kentucky basketball brings immeasurable economic and emotional benefit to the state (unlike Manchester).

  2. Hersheyisabear

    Once again. Lexington gets hosed and Louisville reaps all the benefits. So much bullshit.

  3. jhnny

    I know this site hates politics, but it was the Republicans who blocked the funding. The Democratic caucus, including even Dems from Louisville, favored the funding…

  4. Wes

    He gave more money to the Louisville convention center but none to Rupp and his reasoning was education? I bet if UofL came calling and wanted a new 65 million shrine for Pitino he would be all for it.

  5. Robert Stivers

    Feel free to vote me out of office as my agenda is clear to see.

  6. Hannity

    Obamas fault!!!!!!!!

    1. Noteek

      Please leave the idiot in chief out of this there is already enough lack of leadership and incompetence surrounding this debacle to ramp it up to the major leagues in this realm.

  7. roundball fool

    Stivers needs to go. Typical political grandstanding and double talking garbage.
    UK should have helped Gray push this thing.

  8. I'll just leave this here


  9. Jimbob Bautista

    I have never voted for a Democrat in my life, but if I lived in Manchester I would be voting Democrat in this loser’s next election.

  10. Big J

    I would love to see a list of names of who voted against the renovation request.
    We can vote them out next election.

  11. uktailg8er

    There is a lot more to this story than simple Rep v Dems. In the past few weeks the budget committee has heard from a lot of people Gray would make you think are on board with the project. The hotel/motel association (opposed to tax), current civic center merchants (getting kicked out), the urban county council (in the dark about the plans), UK (who prefers money given to support education) and a LFUCG whistleblower who brought to light almost $20 million the city has spent on unnecessary pet projects in the past few weeks.

    1. Get at him

      dont care…get it done. bottom line. Always bs associated with budgets

    2. stevem

      Sounds like this thing has been badly handled from the beginning. Does this hurt Gray’s future?

    3. eddie vedder

      It was the responsible thing to do, Gray had no idea how he was gonna pay for it. He was basically saying “if you build it, they’ll come(money)”.

    4. Dee W.

      Not to mention this $65 million was bonding (debt). After the example of the KFC Yum! Center now going into junk bond status, that was not a good precedent to follow. The state is already up to its eyeballs in bonded debt to create artificial “balanced” budgets. Those chickens will come home to roost if that pattern does not stop.

  12. Get at him
  13. chris

    I hope this is not forgotten as time moves on. These are the moments we make law makers pay down the road for their stupid decisions. Do not vote this clown back in. I am a republican and anymore don’t see much difference between the parties. Let’s take this fool down. Also the mayor in Louisville needs to go down. This is absolute crap and the agenda has been sent loud and clear. UK basketball is the one fabric that drives this state. If it is well all other things will be taken care of. KSR don’t forget this. Matt you were made for this….Don’t let us forget!!!

    1. Dr. Funke

      You talk about how you are a republican but then you are in favor of more wasteful spending? Doesn’t sound very republican to me.

  14. Dr. Funke

    This would be a waste of money anyway. Why can’t rupp arena pay for it’s own renovation if it makes so much money. spending 65 million on this would be the same as throwing it down the toilet cause the state will not see one cent of it back.

    1. DB11

      Love the ignorance. Read a book before you regurgitate your financial illiteracy to the masses.

    2. Dr. Funke

      No, you read a book. There is a reason that Rupp has to go to the state for this funding, because it is a bad investment. If it were a good investment then Rupp could get private funding. This money is supposed to get paid back to the state but it rarely happens this way. Look at the YUM center.

    3. el hombre juan

      Lol smartass got owned. Well played Dr funke.

    4. Dr. Steve Brule

      They’re all just mumbo jrumbo trashy hunks anyways. Who cares.

    5. BigBlue37

      And you think the money put up for the YUM Center is a “good” investment?

    6. Dee W.

      “And you think the money put up for the YUM Center is a “good” investment?”

      I don’t see where he said that at all…and by bringing that up, you essentially lay to bear why this additional debt is not going to be incurred by the state. The disaster that Yum! Center turned out to be is likely a big reason this is not going to go through.

  15. The secret

    You can’t vote on a “secret” UK contract. Blame Jim Gray for acting the fool. He told everyone the he couldn’t discuss UK details. Maybe UK wasn’t on board. Mitch made sure UL got their day. Anyone voting McConnell over Matt Bevin is a fool. The Good Ole Boy network rides again.

    1. Blue To The Bone...

      I feel your pain , BUT if Bevin wins then Grimes is probably a shoe in to beat him and you lose all around..

    2. Jimbob Bautista

      There’s nothing wrong with Bevin, but if he wins then Grimes will win, and that’s disaster.

  16. Josh

    This is where UK supporters need to rise up and demand that Rupp be moved on campus and let the school private donations build the new arena.

    1. Blue To The Bone...

      Josh …There aren’t enough big money boosters and fan base to raise that kind of money in KENTUCKY privately…

    2. BBN

      Absolutely agree! As a UK alumnus (Class of 1998), I want to see a new arena built on campus, either from a deal with IMG or another company or a combination of private donations / financing. Let the city deal with Rupp arena and the convention center on their own.

  17. Mark Perkins

    The General Assembly was correct in not including $65 million for Rupp in the state budget.
    It would have been irresponsible for the state to spend tax dollars on Rupp without first seeing a detailed plan for funding the rest of the $310 million cost AND a signed lease with UK.

    1. stevem

      This is an excellent point. If this story emanated from Washington, DC and didn’t involve UK, all those criticizing the lack of funding for this project would be applauding Stiver’s actions. Sounds to me like Gray has badly handled this entire issue from the outset by failing to secure financing for the balance of the project. Responsible for Stivers to do what he did.

    2. DB11

      Love the ignorance. Read a book before you regurgitate your financial illiteracy to the masses.

    3. Photo Cat

      I agree about the financial responsibility. It’s a shame it had to play out the way it did.

    4. Dee W.

      “Love the ignorance. Read a book before you regurgitate your financial illiteracy to the masses.”

      There’s no ignorance to be found in what you are responding to – however, there’s plenty to be found in your comment (that you keep repeating) especially when you don’t bother to even refute what you are responding to – how is it “ignorant” to suggest you don’t go into debt $65 million without a plan in place to show where the rest of the $310 million will come from to show this incurred debt will have a return on investment?

  18. Uktailg8er

    Gray has fudged the truth about this from the start. Remember when he told KSR that naming rights were a last option? He told the budget committee yesterday that naming rights were a significant source of revenue.

  19. Big Blue Realism

    Good, we shouldn’t be spending tax money on renovations to Rupp or on a new arena. Little brother getting what it wanted seems to give a sense of entitlement to a lot of our fans because of that whole superiority complex we have. Since, well, we ARE superior to the dirty birds – still, we can’t use that as our only justification when looking at whether or not taxes should be spent on this.

    For those that say it’s an economic stimulus for the state, you’re absolutely wrong; it’s an economic stimulus for Lexington, but the taxes that will be used to pay for any renovations or a new arena would come from the entire state. This is particularly egregious for people in eastern Kentucky, since they’re already in the worst position out of all of the local populations in the state and will additionally benefit from this project the least. Hilariously enough, these are the people that would probably support it the most because of their perpetual reliance on government (taxes don’t matter if you’re not paying them) and their die-hard big blueness.

    This project would be fiscally irresponsible for the majority of the state. UL shouldn’t have received their cookies either, but hey, what’s done is done. $65 million isn’t chump change:

    1. jhnny

      Cry me a river- per capita, the folks in Eastern Kentucky get more tax dollars than just about anywhere else. Besides, UK and Lexington are only asking for bonding- not tax dollars. If Rupp is successful (and does anyone think it wouldn’t be?) there shouldn’t be any tax dollars spent on the renovation.

      This is personal with Stivers and the Republicans and I have no idea why that is- but it is. Someone ask Stivers what the deal is- please.

    2. DB11

      Love the ignorance. Read a book before you regurgitate your financial illiteracy to the masses.

    3. Big Blue Realism

      You’re absolutely right about the situation of government reliance in eastern Kentucky, echoing exactly what I just said. Thank you! It’s a problem, just like this is.

      If Rupp won’t be increasing ticket prices (per Gray) in order to pay back the bonds, then why hasn’t X amount of money been saved each year towards these renovations (where X is the amount per year that Rupp Arena would pay back to the government after receiving the bond)?

      I have a hard time believing that ticket prices won’t increase, which will make it more difficult for the “common” fan to attend events. Not to mention, once the $65 million of taxpayer money has been spent on the project, the taxpayers won’t see a cent of it back in their pockets – it will go back to the state government where it will be spent as irresponsibly as they already spend. Additionally, it puts the state more in debt in the short term, causing that debt to accrue interest and likely putting more burden on future taxpayers, just like any other project of this nature. The coffers are empty, but the state still spends more than it takes in year in and year out.

    4. Big Blue Realism

      DB11, I’ve probably read more books than you on the subject, but my perspective is probably different because we’ve probably read different books. Posting replies that call people ignorant when they don’t agree with you is pretty childish.

    5. UpperSectionStudent

      The deal is that Gray didn’t give enough of a layout to make investing seem logical. How do you not get this? If I open a business, I have to be extremely forthcoming on how I plan on using investors money to be successful and in turn make them money. It’s the same with Gray and the Senate.

    6. scfcats

      DB11 – You are winning a lot of hearts and minds with control c and v. Keep it up!

    7. Big Blue Realism

      UpperSectionStudent: “How do I not get this”? No, I get it completely. You see this as a legitimate business investment and I do not. The government should not be in the business of subsidizing entertainment that benefits a local population (Lexington). That’s where our opinions differ and that’s why you think I’m not understanding something that I probably have a better grasp than you on – no offense.

      I’m sure the reasoning for not voting for this is closer to what you said than the reasons I’m giving for my personal opposition to the spending, but my opinions on the matter are still legitimate. We shouldn’t be spending this because it’s simply not the state government’s job to renovate Rupp Arena. I would say it’s likely that the majority of people that regularly attend games think otherwise, because they’d benefit from it the most. My next question to you would be: are you one of those people?

    8. Dr. Steve Brule


    9. Dee W.

      “Besides, UK and Lexington are only asking for bonding- not tax dollars.”

      That makes no sense, since it is debt incurred by the state.

      “If there was/is a problem with the plan, he should have been pro-active from the start, got involved, and fixed his concerns. Instead, he simply sat back and used his power as head of the Republican Senate to kill the deal.”

      Oh really…when did the bill get to him?

  20. jhnny

    Stivers is the President of the Senate. He should know that this is an important project. If there was/is a problem with the plan, he should have been pro-active from the start, got involved, and fixed his concerns. Instead, he simply sat back and used his power as head of the Republican Senate to kill the deal.

    Vote him out.

    1. stevem

      Was Stivers a sponsor of this bill? If not, he had no obligation as President to shepard it through the legislative process to insure its passage. From what we’ve seen, looks like he realized this was a cluster f&*k from the get go and didn’t want to commit state dollars to a potential financial debacle. Blame Gray. Sounds like this was too big of a project for him to take on.

    2. Dee W.

      You nailed it, stevem.

      This is far more complicated than wanting Rupp Arena renovated vs. not wanting it renovated. A lot of people are commenting only within that prism. I want Rupp Arena renovated as well…however, there has to be a plan that is financially solvent and is workable. We haven’t seen that…and neither did the legislature.

  21. Cathy

    Forget the city of Lexington. Build a new arena on the UK campus and dedicate the first 20 rows of seats all around for the students. The students should be placed the closest to the floor.

  22. Mark Perkins

    If I’m on the Lexington City Council I don’t vote for Rupp renovation without seeing a signed lease from UK.

    1. DB11

      They already signed the lease, move on ignorance.

    2. Fact is

      No lease extension has been signed. That is what this is all about, finances.
      UK has only said they are in favor of renovating Rupp Arena.
      Who isn’t? The devil is in the details.

  23. Walter White

    Screw Stivers and screw Gray.

    1. Miss Nomer

      It’s not Gray’s fault – the Rs in Frankfort are the ones to blame.

    2. stevem

      It is Gray’s fault. He was the sponsor of this bill and didn’t have the political skills to get it passed.

  24. Miss Nomer

    This is really disappointing. The politicians saying its about fiscal responsibility are lying. Don’t buy that. If they cared about fiscal responsibility there are a lot larger and more systemic issues to deal with – the tax structure etc. This $65m is about political games plain and simple.

    1. Big Blue Realism

      While I agree that the politicians in Frankfort are pretty poor at legislating proper fiscal responsibility (such as spending more than the amount of taxes we take in each year), it’s not a good enough reason to support this project.

      “You spent all this money on A, B, & C, so if you’re blocking D it must be politics. Vote out the people not voting to spend money on D!”

      The problem is much bigger than this one instance of spending, I agree. Still, proper budgeting has to start somewhere.

    2. roundball fool

      Well said!

  25. Billy

    So Mayor Gray simply lied to KSR concerning the significance of naming rights during his radio appearance a few weeks ago. He kept it all secret from Kentucky fans / Lexington taxpayers because he knew we would get angry with the details of the deal. Perhaps Stivers did us all a favor. The blame lies 100% on Mayor Gray, not Stivers. I am NO fan of Stivers, but Gray should have been more honest and forthright and should have had a lease worked out with UK.

  26. Smart Call

    Rupp is still a great arena. The YUM Center was clearly a mistake and spending $65 million to upgrade an already viable arena was premature. At the end of the day, education is more important than seat backs at Rupp. Fiscal conservatism.

    1. YouPeopleHaveNoIdeaWhatYou'reTakingAbout

      Rupp is not a great arena. It’s in a state of decay and anyone who’s seen it knows that. The YUM Center was clearly not a mistake but the revenue distribution contract was. Please have some form of an education before you spout your financial illiteracy.

    2. Dee W.

      “Please have some form of an education before you spout your financial illiteracy.”

      The comments did indicate financial literacy – while yours did not.

  27. Tim

    No one is asking Louisville to fund their convention center without state money but when it comes to Lexington we are on our own. Sounds like the same old double standard.

  28. YouPeopleHaveNoIdeaWhatYou'reTakingAbout

    The arena is in a state of decay. Kentucky basketball, one of the biggest components of the Kentucky economy and spirit, is now in doubt. It’s fine with Cal here because we’re winning but once he’s gone and attendance falls you’re going to see just how bad the situation is. NKU will have a better arena than the “flagship institution”. Another 10 years and UK will have one of the worst arenas in the country.

    You want to know why Kentucky will never escape the mediocrity it’s currently in? Because no-brainer decisions like this get turned down due to ignorance.

  29. Mark Perkins

    DB11: how much is UK’s annual rent? What percentage of the suite revenue do they get? How long is the lease for?

  30. MtnCat

    Rupp arena should stand on it’s own merits, not on the charity and whims of politicians.
    If it is worth doing let the supporters provide for it’s construction. Let the patrons pay for it, not the taxpayers. Take UK out of the equation and the project falls on it’s face completely. Time to pony up or shut up Rupp Arena. SEC Network TV is a game changer in college sports, UK is not immune. Arenas are not the cash cow they use to be, especially ones in very small markets.

  31. rainman

    Sounds a LOT like Washington, PUBES do, what PUBES do,

    PLEASE, make sure and remind us, (as voters) of this come election time
    You KNOW we all have short memories!

    BTW, calling a Republican conservative is like calling Ted Nugent a great American!!
    DB11, THAT, is IGNORANT!

  32. East Kentucky Infidel

    Stivers is a hero, had the balls to stand up and act responsibly. There are a lot of questions yet to be answered. Set the record straight.

  33. Some Guy in Kentucky

    How many events a year would the “new RUPP” need to cover its bond obligation? The YUM center needs about 200 events a year, but gets about 100. So, it will always lose a lot of money. How many events a year does RUPP get now? How many additional events will it need? How many events will it need to take from the YUM center each year? The “new RUPP” project is more expensive than the YUM center, so wouldn’t it need 200 or more events? The area around the YUM center was supposed to make about 6 million dollars a year in TIF, at makes about 2 million dollars. How much will UK basketball tickets need to go up because of “new RUPP”?

  34. calipeari

    I don’t understand the outrage here. I was incredibly unimpressed when considering the inner arena changes. It looks about the same to me. Sure the seats have chairbacks and the angle is slightly less dangerous feeling but still… It’s great that the project places such an emphasis on beautification of the exterior and the surrounding lands (even reclaiming a buried stream that would undoubtedly be impossible to see during the winter months at 7 or 9 pm for a home game in the dark outside). Lexington doesn’t have the type of climate or population density to leave me feeling that this is the best possible investment of such an enormous amount of money.

    On a side note the lack of funds being earmarked towards the arena plans in it’s current incarnation is entirely the appropriate decision to have been made. I’m surprised that a politician from Clay County has the cajones to make a good but likely unpopular decision concerning UK basketball.

    When I look at the Yum Center and it’s arena layout it’s clear to me that the building is a spectacular success, while the lease is almost criminal. When I look at this new Rupp plan I can’t help but compare it to a 21st century version of Thompson Bowling Arena. Hard to get too excited about that.

    The only thing this plan seems to have going for it is some seatbacks and a slightly less dangerous incline, plus the fact that UL shouldn’t get something and UK get something too. Frankly the park area should be beside the FOOTBALL stadium, not the basketball arena.

  35. UKBlue

    Way too much is being made of this whole thing; it is truly scary how much people don’t know or understand about politics. This is only delayed not permanently dead; they are trying to make 100% sure the finances add up, that they aren’t being lied to again, and that is kind of hard to do when this thing is dropped at the state senates feet with only 5 days before the end of session. We are paying for the sins of the Yum Center mess, so the financial numbers are being scrutinized. This thing is only delayed not dead, so calm down.

  36. Voiceless Taxpayer

    I thought we had upgraded the leadership in the Senate when Williams left. I can admit when I am wrong and this is one of those times. An obstructionist is an obstructionist, by any other name. I just wish the rest of the Repubs. in the Senate would grow a pair and do what is right instead of being bullied by their elected leadership. In response to another post, I am pretty sure that the $56 million going to Louisville for the Convention Center is state wide money also, not just from Louisville. And many are saying to put a new arena on campus. I am for it, but the Senate also removed all bonding for new building projects on ALL campuses across the state, at UK mostly to be used for desperately needed new student housing. What chance would a new arena have of getting through them? Zero I imagine. And to top it off, Stivers is a UK Law School alum. Looks like he is intent on making the Winchester Wall work in reverse. And lastly, in response to his (Stivers) post (I assume that it was actually him, given the arrogant tone) about voting him out; if only I could cast that ballot. Having lived in a neighboring county for many years, I know how the politics work in the region. He gets money for local projects and is practically guaranteed re-election. If it were a statewide election, he would have no chance. Might I suggest running for a statewide office so that I may cast a vote? Oh, wait, he tried that once before. How did that turn out?

  37. WCS Fan

    Love Matt & KSR, but can’t help but feeling he doesn’t know anything about all the different details that go into a huge 65 million $$$ decision like this. He merely placed blame on one politican and wanted to paint him as the bad guy and wanted all of us to raise h*ll about it. I don’t think it’s that easy and I think Matt needs to stick to what he knows best.

    1. rainman

      According to reports, one politician removed 65 mil. from the proposed budget! He hasn’t denied it, in fact he defended it by saying they didn’t have the plan LONG enough to study it! SO, whom should the blame be placed on?

    2. jhnny

      Uhhh, one politician, who happens to be the head of the Republican controlled Senate is the one who blocked it. That is a fact. If you want to defend him, as some have herein, go ahead, but lets not make up facts.

  38. Woody P

    Matt and Company, you guys need to know the facts before trying to mislead the readers. It comes down to Gray’s lack of transparency and funding sources. The city has no funding plan and they got called out at the state level. Finally we have some state politicians that are trying to be responsible stewards!! I’m not saying that every decision they make is right or wrong, but this decision was correct and sound… Stop making arguments your emotions. I want the improvements to Rupp Arena, but you have to prove you can pay for them first!!

  39. John

    I for one am glad. Don’t mess with a good thing. I love the place the way it is. The electricity in the whole convention center shops on game day is amazing!

  40. Secrets

    Great comment Woody. I followed this during the discussions in Frankfort on Saturday and the minute Gray muttered “its secret” regarding the details with UK I knew it was over. The likelihood there is something shady between UK and the city is slim, but with that comment Gray created the impression there was something they were hiding.

    The whole thing has seemed sloppy and rushed from the get go. They should have had a polished presentation with solid financial projections and means of payment. If I had presented something so sloppy at my job my boss would probably have told me to hit the road. Gray should have known better and done better.

  41. Jerry

    Matt, I guess you should criticize Stumbo and his gang for not holding out for more funding.

    1. jhnny

      Ummm, no, then we would shut down Kentucky over one project. The Dems supported Rupp and had the votes. Stivers and the Republicans blocked it. You may support them for doing so, but that is what happened.

  42. Jay

    Matt, no one should call for a vote unless they know they have the vote to proceed with a big project. Mayor Gray did not do the proper work ahead of time or provide the needed information.

  43. Alumni Fundraiser

    Why don’t all of the recent one-and-doners pool their recent riches to help pay for the renovation?


  44. Jerry

    Jhnny, that never stopped Stumbo and his gang on other occasions. If he felt strongly enough for Rupp he should have stuck to his principles. I hope Rupp is renovated but the Mayor and Stumbo need to do more work ahead of time.