New UK fund-raising site details Commonwealth Stadium renovation plans

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJanuary 8, 2013 

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Young fans attended Kentucky's home game against Samford on Nov. 17. Photo by Jonathan Palmer

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  • Stadium upgrades on wish list

    ■ Spectator-driven improvements (concessions, restrooms, video boards, security)

    ■ Multi-purpose recruiting room in East end zone (near Nutter Field House)

    ■ Add 10-15 suites, one for Presidential use to seat 100-150 fans

    ■ Add 2,000-2,500 club seats

    ■ New press facilities

    ■ New team store

    ■ New full-service kitchen

    ■ Improve the UK brand at Commonwealth Stadium

    ■ Maintain or slightly reduce seating capacity while increasing the value of remaining seats

A few months ago, the University of Kentucky athletic department shared plans for what it wanted to do with Commonwealth Stadium with donors via literature.

Various parts had been discussed in a meeting here or a meeting there, but UK's basic plans got a shiny new platform on Tuesday when UK Athletics launched an improved fund-raising website.

The site, www.kfundonline.com, gives the most comprehensive look so far at Kentucky's wish list for how it wants to "re-invent Commonwealth Stadium" with a price tag of $125 million.

It would be ideal to raise that through donations, UK athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy said.

"That's the approach we'll try," Peevy said when asked if UK believes it can raise that kind of money through private donations. "None of the other things you can control, so we're trying to say 'Hey, this is one of the big projects, where we want to go.' "

The proposals include a multi-purpose recruiting room, 10-15 suites, 2,000 to 2,500 club seats, new press facilities, a team store and a full-service kitchen.

The improvements mentioned do not include an expansion of the 67,942-seat stadium. The future might be moving in the opposite direction, according to one of the goals outlined, which said: "Maintain, or slightly reduce, seating capacity while increasing the value of the remaining seats."

That falls in line with comments that Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart made to the Herald-Leader in an interview in December.

"People write me all the time saying build an 80,000-seat stadium," Barnhart said. "No, we don't need that. Probably, if we do anything, we'll go the other way. Less and better. And make it really classy. And try and put something that is pretty special to it and make it a better fan experience for those who come. And make the ticket something that is a valuable commodity rather than something that you can pick up anywhere."

At a news conference in late December, new football coach Mark Stoops was asked if he had developed priorities for the UK football facilities now that he'd spent some time in them.

"There are, and I'll really let Mitch address those and make sure he and I are on the same page," Stoops said. "Again, I think everybody here wants to see some improvement in certain areas, so I believe we're working hard to get that done."

All of these wish-list items went out in a brochure to donors a couple of months ago, but UK wanted to make an effort to get it out to more fans through the K-Fund site. The site has been a work in progress for seven to eight months, Peevy said.

"It's become more like a relaunch, but it's really just a redesign," Peevy said of the website. "All the basic information was there before, you'd just never seen it. It was one of the reasons why we wanted to do this."

Other facilities upgrades or changes include a new baseball facility off Alumni Drive, near the new softball and soccer complexes. The new stadium probably will cost in the ballpark of $32 million, according to the K-Fund site.

Potential naming rights are available around new facilities like the soccer, track and softball complexes.

There also is a wish list for expansion of the Boone Tennis Center with a $6.5 million price tag.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg, but these are things we see as immediate needs across our 22 sports," Peevy said. "These are the things we want to tackle next."

Other future capital projects discussed on the site include expanding the academic facilities, Nutter Football facilities and adding a range for the rifle team.

Officials hope the revamped website will be a good first step toward drumming up support.

"We need to make the public more aware in how to invest in UK Athletics," Peevy said. "It's an easy process and this has been a great way to show people what we're trying to do."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241 Twitter: @jenheraldleader Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com Herald-Leader sports columnist John Clay contributed to this report.

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