Beatty says new leadership needed to repair Lexington's relationship with UK after Rupp project

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comJune 25, 2014 

  • Rupp Arena history

    1974: Financed by $37 million in bonds, construction begins on Lexington Center complex, including a basketball arena.

    Oct. 17, 1976: First concert at Rupp Arena: Lawrence Welk.

    November 1976: University of Kentucky basketball makes its debut at Rupp, beating Wisconsin 72-64.

    March 1985: The NCAA Final Four basketball games were held at Rupp.

    June 1996: Rick Pitino, then UK's basketball coach, suggests that UK build a new arena on campus.

    October 1999: City plans a $45 million overhaul of Rupp and the convention center, asks the state to kick in $30 million of the cost.

    August 2001: UK agrees to a long-term lease for UK basketball to remain in Rupp Arena through 2017-18.

     August 2002: All of Rupp Arena's multicolor seats are replaced — with blue ones — at a cost of $1.6 million.

    2004: Renovation of Lexington Center, including improvements to Rupp, is completed.

    October 2007: Lexington officials announce they are in early stages of planning a state-of-the-art arena and an expanded convention center to replace Rupp, to be paid for using a special downtown taxing district. That plan does not move forward.

    August 2008: The University of Kentucky announces it is developing a plan for a new downtown basketball arena, to be financed privately. In 2010, officials say this plan has fallen through.

    January 2011: Lexington Mayor Jim Gray calls for a study to determine the feasibility of redesigning and renovating Rupp Arena and the Lexington Center. He later appoints the Arena, Arts and Entertainment Task Force, which recommended renovating the complex.

    July 2013: NBBJ Architects and Hunt Construction are picked to helm the design and construction of the project.

    February 2014: Designs for the new Rupp Arena and convention center are revealed.

    April 2014: Legislature declines to vote on $80 million in state bonding for the project, saying the financing plan for the project has changed and UK's support is unclear.

    May 2014: President Eli Capilouto sends letter to Lexington Center Corporation officials saying that UK has withdrawn support because of lack of public support for taxpayer funding for the $351 million project.

    June 12, 2014: University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and Gray meet to discuss the future of a $351 million renovation of Rupp Arena and attached convention center. Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Gray, said last week's meeting was "positive" and "we look forward to continuing the conversation."

    June 18, 2014: Gray suspends Rupp Arena project after losing UK support.

Anthany Beatty said Wednesday that a change in leadership was needed to repair the city's relationship with the University of Kentucky because of the now suspended Rupp Arena renovation.

"In my opinion, the relationship between the University of Kentucky and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government has been tarnished," he said. "The Lexington city leadership must change in order to mend this relationship and move our city forward."

Beatty, who is running against Mayor Jim Gray in November, said he had a medical procedure last week and was unable to comment when Gray announced June 18 that he was suspending the controversial project indefinitely. Gray said the project was being suspended because UK had changed its mind about the scope of the renovations to the arena.

Beatty, who is an administrator at UK and a former Lexington police chief, said during a news conference Wednesday that the Rupp project had a host of problems — a lack of transparency, the financial plan for the project changed several times, disagreements between the city and UK about the project, and there was little or no public support for the project.

"Lexington deserves better," he said of the planning that led to the project. "Our tax dollars should not be used to fund this project as it is presented."

Beatty has said repeatedly that he is not speaking for UK on the campaign trail. He is still employed by UK and campaigns during days off and on weekends.

Gray, meanwhile, said last week that the relationship between the city and university was still strong despite disagreements over the Rupp project. Gray said the city and university work together on a host of issues, including transportation, construction and other economic development projects. Gray also has noted that three years of planning went into the Rupp project and included multiple public hearings and public input.

Beatty said Wednesday that if elected in November, he wouldn't abandon plans to renovate Rupp Arena and the attached convention center. However, he said he would slow the process, get more public input and determine the best way for the project to move forward. He also said he would try to leverage private money to help pay for any possible renovation.

Beth Musgrave: (859) 231-3205. Twitter: @HLCityhall.

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