Calipari to identify donors for new locker rooms

lblackford@herald-leader.comMarch 21, 2012 

University of Kentucky men's basketball Coach John Calipari will identify the people who have given $2.5 million to help renovate the locker room complex at Rupp Arena, a university spokesman said Wednesday.

"Coach plans to publicly recognize the donors in an appropriate fashion to thank them for their contributions in the near future," spokesman Jay Blanton said in a statement.

Calipari raised the money himself and solicited the work of architect Steve Sherman, who created a design for the locker room that was presented Tuesday night on Coachcal.com, said Bill Owen, president of Lexington Center Corp., which runs Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center.

The plan shows a new circular locker room, a players' lounge, a theater-style meeting room, and a new kitchen and dining area, among other upgrades.

Funding for the $2.9 million project — $400,000 will be provided by Lexington Center — will be funneled through the Blue Grass Community Foundation, Owen said. Because the Lexington Center Corp. is a not-for-profit organization rather than a charitable entity, it can't accept direct donations, and donors couldn't take tax deductions.

The foundation might not be required to identify the donors, but that became a moot point when UK announced Calipari's intention to reveal their identities.

Foundation president and CEO Lisa Adkins said no fund for the locker room project has been set up officially, but "we're working through the details."

The foundation has about 300 charitable funds, which donated about $3.2 million to different charities in the area last year. The organization has about $49 million in assets, Adkins said.

The foundation can make a direct donation to Lexington Center because the center is a not-for-profit that benefits the community. Donors to the project would be eligible for tax deductions because their money went to the foundation.

Cecil Dunn, chairman of the Lexington Center board, said Calipari and others discussed donors giving directly to UK, but they were worried about bureaucratic hurdles. The UK Athletics Association was dissolved recently, and athletics is now being overseen directly by the Board of Trustees.

"There was some fear that if it (the money) went directly to the university, it would have to go down to the legislature for those hearings and approval, and it might not get out in time," Dunn said.

The university has to get legislative approval for construction projects even when they are being built with private funds.

Construction on the locker room area cannot begin until after UK graduation in May and is supposed to be finished by the first basketball game on Nov. 12.

"Now that we've got board approval, we can get started getting the project designed and budget established," Owen said.

Owen said he was starting with a request for bids for a construction manager. He wasn't clear whether Steve Sherman of Sherman Carter Barnhart would continue with the work or whether the initial plan was a donation as well.

"There is a notion that the architect would be the appropriate organization to make sure the money is being spent properly because they've been involved from the start," Owen said.

Sherman did not return calls for comment. Sherman Carter Barnhart also is designing a new residence hall at UK being built by a private developer.

Mayor Jim Gray applauded the plan, with a caveat.

"The coach needs a locker room, and I'm all for it," Gray said in a statement. "It's an investment in the brand to continue to recruit the best. That said, any additional renovations being discussed require careful thought. To create a world-class arena as a cornerstone to our city, the architecture and engineering should be integrated, not piecemealed."

In a similar public/private project, Gray spokeswoman Susan Straub said, money from Fifth Third Bank was given to the Downtown Lexington Corporation Foundation to build the Fifth Third Bank Pavilion in Cheapside Park.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359 Twitter: @lbblackford.

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