Committee backs funding plan for UK stadium renovations, university projects

lblackford@herald-leader.comFebruary 6, 2013 

Sports Turf crews prepared the field at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington in September 2011, just ahead of the first home game of the season. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved a bill to allow six state universities to use their own money to build projects, including a new science building and Commonwealth Stadium renovation at the University of Kentucky.

House Bill 7 passed unanimously with no questions. Chairman Rick Rand, D-Bedford, praised the university presidents for returning to the legislature with a pared-down building plan after being rejected last year.

"I think since that time, the university presidents have all ... worked on a very narrow list of projects they think are critical to their institutions," Rand said. "It makes our job and the process we go through easier and better."

The bill is scheduled to go before the full House on Thursday.

The 11 projects will be paid for with about $363 million in agency bonds, which means the bonds will be paid off with universities' revenues rather than state general fund dollars.

UK's projects include a $65 million expansion of the Gatton School of Business, paid off with mostly private fundraising, and a $100 million science building, two-thirds of which will be paid by UK Athletics. Athletics also will pay for the $110 million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium.

Other projects include dorm construction and renovations at Morehead State, Murray State and Northern Kentucky universities. The University of Louisville will renovate its student activities center for $9.6 million.

Western Kentucky University will issue $22 million in bonds for a new honors college and international center, which would be paid off with higher tuition from international students.

House Bill 7 will now move to the full House, then to the Senate, where leaders have previously expressed support for the measure. House Bill 7 represents a bipartisan accomplishment for the General Assembly during a session that presents much thornier problems, such as reform of the pension system and the proposed legalization of industrial hemp.

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

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