Top lawmakers expected to support university projects, including UK stadium

lblackford@herald-leader.comJanuary 9, 2013 

Gov. Steve Beshear and top legislative leaders are expected to announce their support Thursday morning for new academic buildings at the University of Kentucky and a $110 million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium.

The projects are among several that state universities have asked Beshear and lawmakers to approve, with the stipulation that they can be paid for with money from universities rather than state General Fund.

"We turned a list of projects over to the governor, and he's ready to proceed," Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell said Wednesday afternoon.

Beshear's office issued a press advisory Wednesday saying he would make a "major announcement for university funding and projects" Thursday morning in the Capitol.

Beshear will be accompanied by UK President Eli Capilouto and several other university presidents, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

Ransdell said Beshear was expected to announce his support of legislative approval for so-called "agency bond" projects, in which universities pay back bond debt with internal revenue streams.

Most of the time those bonds are issued for projects such as dorms or dining halls, which generate money that can pay the debt.

Most academic buildings have been approved by the General Assembly and paid for with money from the state's General Fund.

Ransdell said universities now want lawmakers to approve creative ways to finance academic buildings and other projects without spending General Fund money.

UK officials declined to comment about the news conference.

However, Capilouto has discussed previously the need for more creative financing for academic buildings, and for flexibility in getting approval for agency bond projects.

For example, there have been major fundraising campaigns to renovate and expand the Gatton School of Business and the School of Law.

Capilouto also has started a nearly $500 million plan to replace and create more student housing at UK, using a private developer who puts up most of the equity in the projects.

Excitement for renovation of Commonwealth Stadium has been building in recent months with the hiring of football coach Mark Stoops.

A wish list for the stadium, published recently on a UK website, included luxury suites, clubhouse seating for 2,500, new press facilities and concessions, and a new recruiting room near Nutter Field House.

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

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