Measures would provide $2.5 million for planning, design of Rupp Arena complex

bfortune@herald-leader.comApril 24, 2013 

This rendering shows a conceptual view of Rupp Arena from the outside. The project involving Rupp and the surrounding area would take 10 to 20 years.

COURTESY OF SPACE GROUP

Lexington's Urban County Council is expected to approve two measures Thursday that would allow Lexington to receive $2.5 million in state money to begin the planning and design phase of the Rupp Arena complex.

The General Assembly appropriated $2.5 million in 2012 for the Lexington Downtown Redevelopment project, which includes Rupp Arena and a new convention center. The money would come in two annual installments of $1.25 million, which the city will match, said Kevin Atkins, the city's chief development officer.

The first memorandum of agreement allows the state to transfer money to the city; the second allows the city to then transfer the funds to the Lexington Center Corp. Money would be withdrawn quarterly.

Frank Butler, project director for the Rupp district project, gave council an update this week. He said work has started in earnest, with three consulting firms doing preliminary work. Architects and a project manager are expected to be hired by early June.

At that point, "We'll be full-blown, moving the project ahead," he said.

The following companies have been hired to date:

■ Convention Sports & Leisure has been hired as the strategic financial adviser to put together a business plan to finance the project. "We're probably about halfway through ... examining all possible financing options for the Rupp project," Butler said.

Working with CSL to develop the funding strategy are three other firms: the Legends sports marketing firm; Live Nation, which produces concerts; and HKS World Events architects, specializing in designing sports venues and convention centers. The financial plan will be complete by early June, Butler said.

■ CSL also has the contract to conduct a feasibility study on replacing the convention center. That report is due at the end of May. Rupp and the convention center "are married, physically," meaning a good portion of the convention center would have to be relocated, Butler said.

"We're in the midst of seeing what it would take to do that — where a relocation site for the convention center might be," Butler said.

The Rupp Arena, Arts and Entertainment District master plan, developed in 2011 by architect Gary Bates, principal in the Norway-based firm Space Group, shows the lower section of Rupp staying pretty much the way it is, Butler said.

The upper arena gets renovated almost in total, including replacement of all the bench seats with chair seats. The concourse becomes the location for suites and loge seating.

■ PC Sports was hired to coordinate between the architects and construction manager, and to get all permits and licenses.

Meanwhile, Butler has issued three requests for proposals: one for architectural and engineering services for Rupp's design; a second for the convention center's design; and a third for a firm to be overall construction manager. This firm will manage the contractor who receives the construction contract, and all the sub-contractors.

Total budget for the complete planning process is about $5.5 million, consisting of contributions from the city, theh state, Lexington Center Corp. and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"Obviously, you're not going to get all the way through design development for two major projects for $5 million," Butler said. "But we are anticipating ... we will get through schematic design, which will give us a real number relative to what the convention center and Rupp renovation would cost."

At some point, Butler said, the council was going to ask him the total cost of the project and how it was going to be paid for. "I'm not ready to answer that right now," he said.

Butler retired as a vice president at the University of Kentucky in 2012 to take the job as manager of the Rupp project. On Tuesday, Mayor Jim Gray asked Butler how much in terms of dollars of construction build-out he had guided while at the university. Butler said about three-quarters of a billion dollars.

Butler said he oversaw the first two phases of the expansion of the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, including $100 million at the new hospital.

Gray said he wanted the council to know that part of Butler's background because it might provide "a thimble of relief and encouragement and inspiration."

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010.

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