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The Rupp Arena situation is a mess


Beth Musgrave of the Herald-Leader was kind enough to catch us all up to speed on the Rupp Arena project’s financial situation today and it appears to be a complete mess. I mean, it’s a real cluster(you-know-what).

The biggest update is Lexington Center chairman Brent Rice sent UK president Eli Capilouto a letter demanding public support from the university. Rice has not heard back from Capilouto but he has until May 23 to respond.

The uncertainty of the project’s future is hurting business — big conventions are hesitant to book for 2016 and 2017 — and it’s only going to get worse if the big three (city, state, and university) can’t get on the same page to back the project. The GM at the Hilton said bookings are already down for 2015.

It doesn’t help that almost all of the $5.5 million in state money set aside for the project design has already been spent. The board voted today to halt any more spending.


Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

34 Comments for The Rupp Arena situation is a mess

  1. Nancy
    9:35 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    They won’t get any support from Eli Capilouto. He only cares about updating and expanding the academic facilities which in fairness are what matters most at a university. He only goes along with athletics so long as they remain self-sustaining and help pay for the other university projects. He will never support and lobby for state money for projects that only benefit athletics and civic endeavors.

  2. Okay, i got to admit
    9:38 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink


    • reight
      10:22 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

      I agree with what a lot of people are saying further down… There is really zero reason to waste valuable state money on this project. Lexington is a FAR distant second the Louisville in size and tout.. so just let them handle the state’s conventions and events (I know plenty of people who drive to Louisville regularly for concerts, no big deal, it gives people in our state a reason to visit or state’s largest city). Rupp, as historic and lovely as it is, will sadly always just be a basketball arena in the state’s second largest city.. not much pull there for events and conventions. You have to think realistically here. Why spend that much money on something when Louisville is literally just down the road? Organizations will always choose Louisville in a heartbeat (Larger population, More recognizable name as major city in the nation, more attractions, more restaurants, and a bigger downtown).

  3. Mike
    10:01 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    It’s sad that the two largest cities in Kentucky can’t figure out how to improve the venues in their respective cities. They are both managing to screw it up in complete opposite ways. Lexington and UK can’t seem to get on the same page and appear to be just bickering back and forth. Louisville and UL are working too well together and appear to be swindling the taxpayers of the city (and the state). The president of UL seems to be willing to give up everything for athletics if it gets the university publicity while UK’s president refuses to let the athletics do anything if it doesn’t prop up an academic project along the way.

  4. Ronnie
    10:04 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    These dirtbags started this by robbing Eastern Kentucky and now they’re trying to bully UK. They have no shame or scruples but this disgraceful episode might finally be coming to an end. Someone should explain to Mr. Rice that UK is a school and the priority is the school.

    • Rei
      10:27 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      I’ve heard there’s a lot of money out in eastern KY.

    • Then you heard right
      10:33 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      He’s talking about coal severance taxes taken from coal companies that were supposed to stay in the region. Instead the state legislature has raided the funds multiple times to spend it in other various regions. And yes it is a monumental amount of money so bugger off.

  5. Manufactured crisis
    10:08 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Let this project die on the vine. There has been zero evidence offered it is needed. The only urgency is manufactured urgency. Everyone starts throwing around large numbers of projected losses based on the pull it out your arse sciences. If the convention center needs to know if it’s a go so bad let them know it’s a no. Why the center would expect, request or “demand” (KSR’s wording that didn’t seem to match reality) Capilouto’s support is beyond me. What’s in it for the university? Better recruiting? Because we’re obviously hurting there and it should be every university president’s main focus. Sadly KSR seems interested only from the recruiting standpoint and a keeping up with the cards mentality. This is real money. Big boy money. We’re not talking about a fresh coat of paint yet KSR fires up the masses with pitchforks when a state legislator has the good sense to say we’re not going to finance your project because you shoved it down our throats 5 minutes to midnight without the details. Thank goodness someone is acting like an adult. An adult in charge of spending OUR money.

    • Drew Franklin
      10:32 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      Yes, it’s 100% our fault.

    • Because that's what I wrote
      10:44 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      Did I say it’s 100% your fault? I must have missed that in editing. Trust me I wouldn’t flatter you that much. You did, however, attack senate leader Robert Stivers inciting and flaming emotional responses from your readership based on nothing more than your basic premise, “we think this would be cool! Louisville got money it promptly wasted! Why aren’t we getting some too?! That’s not fair!”.

    • Cincy Cayt
      10:47 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      U mad?

    • Drew Franklin
      11:10 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      I must’ve missed the part where I attacked Stivers. Apparently we’re both confused.

    • JC
      1:43 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

      Stivers is a jackass and proves as much on a daily basis. I’m glad this situation can bring his ignorance to light.

    • beavis
      7:41 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

      If trying to be fiscally responsible and saving the tax payers another Yum Center debacle is being a jackass, I hope Stivers is the biggest jackass of all time.

  6. Chaz
    10:09 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    I am very discouraged by this. I’m infinitely far away from the decision makers, I’m just a fan, but I am a Lexington citizen, taxpayer, blah, blah, blah, for what that’s worth. I see Lexington losing massive amounts of convention dollars, small business tax dollars, and tourism revenue, which benefit Lexington and adjacent counties, simply because UK and Lexington leaders will not sit down together and make a plan for the future. Not just a plan to hire consultants and firms that make pretty drawings, but a plan that results in something actually being realized. Times are tight, they usually are, but if the University, City of Lexington and Kentucky Legislators can’t come to terms, please tell us soon, so I can enjoy the twilight years of a Rupp Arena in decline, and years down the road tell my grandchildren I went to Rupp when it was a nice place.

  7. Cincy Cayt
    10:30 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Hate to say it, but this is not a need for the state of Kentucky. As someone who attended UK for two degrees, I would love to see this for Lexington, but fortunately there’s more to this great state than that town. Please spend the money on necessities first. I understand it’s not as easy as that, but I don’t feel right demanding action on an oversized playground when so many other projects remain unfunded. Thanks to KSR for covering this and I understand why kentucky SPORTS radio is doing so, but this project will not help KY catch the rest of the country where we lag so horribly.

  8. True Blue Cat
    10:41 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    This is why the University needs to have its own Arena. The city of Lexington is demanding!! Really. If it wasn’t for the Wildcats Downtown would be in trouble. Let’s have the Arena on UK’s property and do it right. Do it for the Students and the Players who come here. Let’s put the students near the court where they should be anyway instead of “Old Money” being near the court. After all this is for the Students and Players anyway..

    • Wow
      10:55 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      That was ridiculous….

    • UKBlue
      11:15 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      OK UK doesn’t have the money, UK can’t borrow money, it would cost at least $350 million plus to build a new arena & you want to piss off the so called old money that donates millions to UK so students who game attendance has been horrible can sit lower. How do you suggest we proceed? I sure am glad you are in charge of nothing.

  9. Hayley's quadriceps
    10:52 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    Let’s be honest here, a renovated Rupp arena might be the first good thing our state government has done in decades. Instead, our state government wants to keep its perfect record of making the wrong decision at every opportunity.

  10. Mayor Missed Judged
    10:55 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    The Mayor and company has over played its hand, and it backfired. Lets raise 3 times more money than we need just to revamp downtown Lexington off the coat tails of UK basketball.

    UK should should tell Gray and company to go jump off a bridge, and build the new arena on campus.

    • Cholera Water
      2:58 pm May 16, 2014 Permalink

      Are you telling me that wasting millions of dollars digging up a creek we buried after a massive cholera outbreak has nothing to do with Rupp Arena or UK?

  11. Dee W.
    11:07 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    “The board learned Thursday that most of the $5.5 million for design has already been spent.”

    On what?

    • Jackass Plumber
      11:15 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

      On these mock-ups

    • Dee W.
      8:30 pm May 16, 2014 Permalink

      Okay, well there was money just allocated to them in the latest budget (albeit a tear drop compared to what they were asking for) – I guess this was money previously allocated to them that has already been spent.

  12. UKBlue
    11:09 pm May 15, 2014 Permalink

    And people wonder why this state is so far behind. We make business deals (ie Yum Center) where the numbers are fudged everyone knows it & they do the deal anyway. Then people act surprised or try to deny reality when it falls apart. Then politicians try to ride UK back & Christmas tree a Rupp redesign to add a bunch of stupid expensive ridiculous things no one cares about. This deal is going to take years to get done if ever. Once the Yum Center goes bankrupt & it hits the states credit rating, it’s going to be even harder & more expensive to get this Rupp deal done.

    • danger
      10:29 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

      Where are your sources sir? Everything I have read makes Yum! seems like a good decision. Do you not want the largest city in your state to be competitive with other state’s biggest cities?

  13. Who cares
    12:13 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

    These arena projects have highlighted just how poorly this state is ran and how incompetent the state government is. With all the bitching and moaning and back and forth I really don’t care if Rupp is renovated or not anymore.

  14. Simple Math
    8:33 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

    Legalize casino gambling! We have forever wagered in this state, (Horses, Lottery, whatever those things at Kentucky Downs are) A wager is a wager is a wager. Let the “Lexington Casino” build and renovate the convention center. Rather than demanding UK’s support a business entity would be recruiting UK’s support. Let the business experts do what they do best. Let the University officials focus on their mission. And let the bureaucrats do…well just keep them out of the way.

    In this slow offseason, I think KSR should investigate and report on the casino issue in Kentucky. It is relevant to the site because of the horse racing connections.

  15. UK Dummy
    8:34 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

    It’s pretty simple: The more money/funding that goes into Rupp and UK athletics in general, the more attention UK sports get, which in turn means more money for KSR and Matt (and I guess a small, insignificant sliver for Drew).

    So when a clearly inept and horribly-planned project goes wrong, Matt/Drew fire up the masses to complain to local legislators in a last-minute attempt at getting them to fund a completely needless and useless project.

    Matt and KSR are all about the cash. I don’t blame them, but I do feel sorry for their brainless (also, toothless) followers that cling on their every last word.

  16. TN Kat
    8:54 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

    Nicely said Nancy. I hope that “Institution of higher learning” takes precedence. UK should not be an investor, just a tenant paying lease. Move a few games back to campus; that is where rest of division one plays.

  17. Playersfan
    9:03 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

    This was all about the city of Lexington from the start. Half the money was directly for the city, and the other half was mainly about the city, in they were more concerned about the appearance rather than the University needs. UK does not need to commit money for 40 years to a facility that seats fewer people than the one they have. Is that worth $175 million to the University. What happens 20 years down the road, it’s still packed and no new fans available?

  18. Turner the Burner
    11:09 am May 16, 2014 Permalink

    There is a group that wants to bring a hockey team back to Lexington but they are put in a holding position because of the renovations. That is at least 40 dates they are missing out on in the next 3 years.

  19. Jay_Postoasties
    12:27 pm May 16, 2014 Permalink

    I just wish UK would build an on campus arena in that big ole field right next to commonwealth. Screw this whole notion of taking State support.