Joe Craft donated 'majority' of money for new Rupp Arena locker rooms

lblackford@herald-leader.comJanuary 8, 2013 

Two major University of Kentucky basketball boosters paid for most of the $3.1 million renovations to the locker room complex at Rupp Arena.

Joe Craft, the coal magnate behind the Joe Craft Center and the Wildcat Coal Lodge, will donate "the majority" of the $2.5 million that has been raised to date for the "Joe Craft Basketball Suite," DeWayne Peevy, UK's executive associate athletics director, said during a tour of the renovated complex Tuesday.

Also, $1 million has been given by the Healy family, Sarah Healy and the late Jerry Healy of Lexington, whose names adorn the entrance to the circular, wood-panelled locker room.

Peevey said the project is not finished and costs could grow for furniture and other items. The university may raise additional money by selling naming rights to other rooms in the complex, he said.

"We are not done with the whole project so there may be other donors, and it's not clear what the final donation by Mr. Craft will be," Peevy said. "It would be a majority of the project."

The cost of the entire project is estimated at roughly $3.1 million, said Bill Owen, executive director of the Lexington Center, which houses Rupp. The center paid for some of the changes to secondary locker rooms for entertainers and other events at Rupp.

Donations are being funneled through the Blue Grass Community Foundation because the Lexington Center Corp. is a not-for-profit organization, rather than a charitable entity, so donors could not receive tax deductions for any donations made directly to the center.

Through a spokesman, Craft declined to comment on his latest donation. The Healys' son, Kelly Healy, who runs the Healy Family Foundation in Winchester, did not return calls seeking comment.

Most of the fundraising was done by men's basketball coach John Calipari, Peevy said.

The architectural design, by Sherman Carter Barnhart, was commissioned by Calipari and was not competitively bid, although other contracts were bid by the Lexington Center Corp.

The new complex includes a new K-Fund booster room, which allows top boosters to see the players through glass as they walk into the arena, an area that Coach John Calipari described on his Web site as "very NBA-ish." He called the entire complex "the gold standard."

The new space at Rupp is lavishly decorated and includes much of the original flooring from the 2012 NCAA Championship game in New Orleans, which UK won. Individual seven-foot-tall gray granite showers sit next to hot and cold tubs for players after games.

The eating area has a wall completely covered with a photograph of the court in New Orleans just after UK won the national championship.

The players' meeting room includes stadium seating in front of a whiteboard wall, complete with markers.

Peevy said Calipari sketched out the renovation on a napkin more than a year ago, and "the drawing looks a lot like what we ended up with."

Both Calipari and Peevy said they want other sports at UK to use the space for recruiting, but Peevy said the locker room itself will be used only by the men's basketball team.

The new amenities allow the players to get physical therapy before they go back to campus, Peevy said. Other schools have on-campus arenas rather than having to travel back and forth. The good side of that, Peevy said, is that "we're here less than 30 times a year. The hope is this will last for at least 20 years."

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

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