Mayor Jim Gray and Governor Steve Beshear came on the radio show this morning to talk about the Rupp Arena project, and it’s clear both are ready to move past the drama of the past few weeks, namely those letters between LCC Chairman Brent Rice and UK President Eli Capilouto. As Mayor Gray said, “We’re bridge building, not blaming.” While that doesn’t make for very entertaining radio, there were a few interesting tidbits. Here are my five takeaways:
1. Mayor Gray did not want to talk about the letter
From the get go, it was clear Mayor Gray did not want to talk about the letters between LCC Chairman Brent Rice and UK President Eli Capilouto. The one thing he did say was that considering the importance of the project to both the city and the university, “a letter like this is not unexpected.”
Mayor Gray and Governor Beshear repeatedly stressed that renovating Rupp and the convention center is mutually beneficial for the city and the university, hence the need to resolve the problems instead of starting from scratch. About that convention center…
2. Why does the convention center have to be part of the project?
One of the biggest criticisms of the Rupp Project is that the convention center is bundled in with the arena, raising costs and stirring up controversy. Why does the convention center have to be part of the deal? “They’re together because the buildings are together,” Governor Beshear said, adding that since the plan’s inception, the convention center has been part of it. My take? The city really, really wants a new convention center, and knows its best bet for that to happen is make it part of the Rupp project.
3. Why did the proposed state funding move from $65 million to $80 million?
One of the concerns Eli Capilouto stressed in his letter this week was the inconsistency of the financial plan, namely how proposed state funding for the project jumped from $65 million to $80 million in a span of a few weeks. Governor Beshear said that because it’s an election year, the hotel and motel tax in the $65 million proposal became “radioactive,” meaning lawmakers were hesitant to back tax increases. As a result, Governor Beshear said they had to come up with the money to replace the funding from the bed tax, so he upped the state’s funding to $80 million.
4. Both said the “Team Rupp” memberships were UK’s idea
One of the most ludicrous parts of the financial plan were the $300 “Team Rupp” memberships budgeted to raise $25-$35 million. The thinking was that if 100,000 or so fans pledge $300 to the Rupp Project, it would give them an “ownership” in the building, or, basically a piece of paper. Eli Capilouto ripped Brent Rice for the idea, which he called overly optimistic, but today, both Mayor Gray and Governor Beshear said the Team Rupp memberships were UK’s idea.
“We don’t know what caused the university to change its position on this. Sitting in the governor’s mansion around his table last year was when the university said ‘We want to run this. We want to run this Team Rupp project and program. And we’re in it.’,” Mayor Gray said, telling Matt that the university’s marketing firm came up with the plan, which was based on the Green Bay Packers model. In fact, Mayor Gray said the university had confidence in the model.
This resulted in Matt’s first “I like you, but” of the interview. “I like you both, but I think you all are insane if you think 140,000 people are going to give $300.”
5. Matt asked Governor Beshear what his stance was on gay marriage
Oh yes, he went there. Governor Beshear refused to give his personal opinion on gay marriage because he says it doesn’t pertain to the matter, and will defer to whatever the Supreme Court decides.
…This should make for a fun comments section.
Thanks to both the Mayor and the Governor for participating. Hear the interview for yourself:
Also, thanks to Senator Robert Stivers for coming in: