Rick Williams of Bath County spent $17,532.40 at an auction of items from Rupp Arena and Lexington Center properties Friday, but it wasn't just because he's a big University of Kentucky basketball fan.
Williams said he acquired the items to furnish a life skills academy for recovering drug-addicted women ages 18 to 30 that he expects to open in Bath County.
Williams bought the auction's top seller — a UK trophy case — for $1,000. He also paid $550 each for 11 lockers. His haul accounted for more than half of the roughly $34,000 raised in Friday's auction in the Cox Street parking lot.
Williams will open the Michelle Williams Life Skills Academy in the former Bethel Elementary School building. It will be named for his daughter, Michelle Williams, 21, who he said died of a prescription drug overdose in 2012.
Finding three trailer loads of items for the academy "was a blessing," said Williams. He thinks the timely purchases, which even included old benches from Triangle Park, might put him ahead of a scheduled April opening.
Williams said there is one thing that he purchased that he will probably give to his mother, an avid UK basketball fan. That is a chair where basketball players sat to have their ankles taped. He bought it for $600.
Auctioneer Roy Lancaster of Lancaster Auctions in Versailles said 125 to 150 people showed up Friday looking for a piece of history from Rupp Arena, Triangle Park or the Opera House.
The UK team's lockers were available because the locker room had been redone, said Lexington Center President and CEO Bill Owen. Some of the lockers were from past decades. Owen said the money will go toward "the $15 million worth of annual expenses that Lexington Center generates."
Owen said it's the third time in the past 22 years that such a public auction was held. He said having an auction of equipment that had worn out and items that were obsolete was better than throwing them away.
The dozens of items included a cotton candy machine from 1976 that brought $450, old Opera House footlights, and a gazebo where children once visited Santa Claus.
Jacob Moore, 19, of Winchester said he bought a basketball rim that had hung in Rupp Arena for $325. Moore said he had wanted one nearly his entire life. When he was 5, Moore said he and his father were watching a UK game on TV and he told his father he would like to have a basketball rim from Rupp Arena. His father told him that if he ever had the opportunity, he would get him one. Moore said when he saw a mention of the auction on TV and realized that he could buy a basketball rim, he immediately thought of his father, who died in March 2012.
Moore said he could feel his father's spirit as he purchased the rim on Friday: "I think he had something to do with it."