Project manager for suspended Rupp Arena plan to be paid at least 6 more months

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comJuly 17, 2014 

Frank Butler's contract does not let the deal be terminated if the Rupp plan falls apart.

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Lexington Center Corp. will continue to pay the Rupp Arena project manager for at least the next six months even though the $350 million renovation of the arena and attached convention center has been suspended indefinitely.

Frank Butler, who has a contract with the center until December 2015, will wrap up existing contracts for the design phase of the project and will explore development options for the High Street parking lot behind the arena and convention center.

Brent Rice, chairman of the Lexington Center Corp. board, told board members during Thursday's meeting that Butler's contract will be reviewed in six months.

"I am in the process of wrapping up everything in terms of the contracts," Butler told the board Thursday.

He also said that although development of the High Street lot was not part of the $350 million renovation of Rupp Arena and attached convention center, there is interest from private developers to develop the site.

A lot of time and money was spent exploring a tax increment financing district to help pay for the Rupp project. Tax increment financing uses taxes generated by the project to help pay for bonds.

Tax increment financing was not included in the final financial plan, but it was worth exploring, Rice said.

Butler, who was being paid out of $5.5 million set aside for the design phase of the Rupp project, will now be paid by Lexington Center Corp., center president and CEO Bill Owen said after Thursday's meeting.

Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, a member of the Lexington Center board, asked that Butler's job duties and tasks in the coming six months be provided to her in writing. Gorton also suggested that Butler come up with an alternate renovation plan that focuses on the convention center and the High Street lot.

Rice dismissed that idea.

"We think it's the right plan; it just needs to be the right time," Rice said. The original plans included an expansion and renovation of Rupp Arena and moving the convention center to the west of the current complex.

Mayor Jim Gray announced in June that he was suspending the project after the city and the University of Kentucky, Rupp's marquee tenant, could not come to an agreement on the scope of the project.

Butler's contract, which began Sept. 1, 2012, does not expire until Dec. 31, 2015. Butler receives $200,000 a year plus other benefits, including a $250,000 life insurance policy, according to documents obtained by the Herald-Leader through an Open Records Act request.

The contract does not have a provision that would allow the Lexington Center Corp. to terminate Butler if the project falls apart.

Of the $5.5 million set aside for the design phase of the project, a little more than $4.8 million has been spent. About $52,000 remains in Lexington Center accounts earmarked for the Rupp Arena project.

There are at least two invoices that total more than $40,000 for geotechnical services that will drain the remaining money left for the project, Butler said.

The money for the project comes from a combination of funding from the state, the city, Lexington Center Corp., and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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

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