Alltech among bidders seeking naming rights for Lexington Convention Center

jtipton@herald-leader.comAugust 6, 2013 

Lexington Convention Center, October 7, 2003.

JANET WORNE | 2003 STAFF FILE PHOTO — LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER Buy Photo

Animal nutrition company Alltech confirmed Tuesday that it is one of two bidders seeking the naming rights for a proposed new Lexington Convention Center.

When asked Tuesday why Nicholasville-based Alltech bid to put its name on the proposed building, founder and president Pearse Lyons reacted with a question of his own: Why not?

The company has used the Convention Center to play host to a number of events, including Lexington's largest annual convention, the Alltech Symposium. In addition, Lyons noted his interest in boosting downtown Lexington.

So, Lyons said, it was "simply natural" for Alltech to submit a bid for the Convention Center naming rights.

"When they come to me, it's like pushing on an open door," Lyons said.

He declined to say how much Alltech had bid.

The company agreed to pay $2 million over 10 years in 2010 for naming rights for Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park. It also spent more than $30 million as the title sponsor for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the horse park and is the title sponsor for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

Mayor Jim Gray's office confirmed Monday that two bids had been submitted for the naming rights. The name of the other person or company making a bid has not been released.

The Rupp District Subcommittee of the Lexington Center's Board of Directors will consider the two bids at a closed meeting the week of Aug. 19. The full board is expected to decide whether to accept one of the bids or re-open the process at a Sept. 19 meeting.

A reworked Lexington Convention Center is part of Gray's idea to revitalize the city's downtown with an arts and entertainment district.

On a separate track is the idea of selling naming rights for a renovated Rupp Arena. A spokesman for Lexington-based Big Ass Fans, which had posted a photo-shopped picture of Rupp Arena with its name on the side, said Tuesday that his company has not bid for the Convention Center naming rights.

Gray considers changing the name of Rupp Arena a "last resort" to maximize funding for the project, spokeswoman Brenna Angel said. A plan to pay for such a renovation is not expected until later this year, Angel said.

Lyons, interviewed by telephone while he went to an airport in Thailand to catch a flight to China, offered a cautious answer when asked about Alltech's interest in the possible naming rights for a renovated Rupp Arena or the entire entertainment district.

"Rupp Arena is iconic. ... It would be absolutely presumptuous on my part to suggest something like that or to say we would be interested," he said. "The Convention Center is what we're focused on. Down the line, that's another day's work and that's another ballgame."

Lyons' wife, Deirdre, serves on the Lexington Center Corporation's Board of Directors. Lyons said his wife's position would not give Alltech an advantage in the naming rights process. His wife is considering recusing herself from the decision-making process on the naming rights, Lyons said.

"I've been married to this lady 40 years," he said. "And you don't stay married to a person 40 years without knowing them. And she's as straight as they come."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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