Gov. Steve Beshear told Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and an audience of business officials Friday morning that he thinks renovating Rupp Arena and relocating the city's convention center "will help revitalize downtown Lexington."
"Mayor, I'm a believer," Beshear said at a Commerce Lexington event. "I'm a believer that that project can transform Lexington, and particularly, that end of Lexington."
In his biennial budget proposal to the legislature, Beshear has requested $65 million in bonding to help renovate the home of the University of Kentucky men's basketball team and relocate the convention center, a project at the center of Gray's plan for a downtown Lexington Arts and Entertainment District.
The total project is expected to cost about $310 million. Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Gray, said in January that a detailed financial plan for the project is expected to be completed soon.
Beshear told the crowd that he and first lady Jane Beshear "have spent most of our adult lives here, and we look at Lexington basically as our home."
"And it's a wonderful place to live, but we've got to continue making sure that ... the vitality is downtown and that things happen downtown," the governor said.
Gray told the Herald-Leader after the event, "It's encouraging that the governor sees the vision for the project and the transformation that it can bring."
"And what's more important is he sees it's all about jobs, it's all about economic growth and development and the city staying competitive," Gray said.
Beshear said a renovated Rupp and convention center "will make a huge difference long term for Central Kentucky."
"You've got some great things going on now," Beshear said. "There's a lot more going on downtown than there's ever been, and this can certainly add to it."
Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.