Ky. Voices: 'Freeing' Rupp could reduce, not enhance, downtown tourism

November 6, 2013 

It is undeniable that downtown Lexington is reviving, breathing new life into the community and attracting more people to the city center.

The Bluegrass Hospitality Association, or BHA, applauds Mayor Jim Gray, the Urban County Council and local business leaders for their hard work and proactive approach to redevelopment and the creation of a vibrant urban center.

The changes downtown are good for the economy and good for the community. Lexington citizens can be proud that they have leaders who not only tackle immediate needs in the community but work to build a foundation for the city's continued success.

However, some of the proposed changes downtown will not serve the best interest of the Lexington travel and lodging industry.

BHA strongly urges city officials to rethink the construction of a new Lexington Convention Center detached from the arena as part of the proposed plan for the Rupp Arena, Arts and Entertainment District.

A July report on a study commissioned by the Rupp Arena Arts & Entertainment District Committee of Lexington Center Corp. states that the "current plan for LCC investment involves substantial removal of existing space, and rebuilding the center in order to provide a free and clear site area for Rupp Arena."

The redesign is not driven by an increased LCC demand or inadequate convention facilities, but to "free Rupp."

In fact, a 2011 report by CS&L planning firm noted that, without an additional 400 hotel rooms downtown, additional convention space would likely be underutilized.

A March 2013 study conducted by The Matrix Group of Lexington for BHA found that meeting planners doubt a larger convention center would be able to attract enough new business to justify an estimated expense in excess of $300 million.

The substantial and expensive redevelopment project cannot be justified simply to make Rupp Arena a stand-alone Lexington landmark.

As stewards of the tourism, convention, and hospitality industry, BHA believes that similar objectives for Rupp Arena could be achieved with creative thinking, efficiency and less disruption to existing business.

Mark Ravenscraft, general manager of Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa, is president of the Bluegrass Hospitality Association.

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