Rupp Arena locker-room upgrade is scheduled to begin next month

Preliminary work is under way on upgrading the University of Kentucky men's basketball locker room and related improvements at Rupp Arena, including hiring a construction manager to supervise the project.

That was part of a progress report Bill Owen, president and CEO of the Lexington Center Corp., gave board members at their monthly meeting on Thursday.

The center has received five responses to its advertisement for a construction manager, Owen said.

"Hopefully, we can make a decision in the next week or two. That's what I'm working on today is pulling together summary information," he said after the meeting.

Once the construction manager is selected, direct bidding for the rest of the project will begin. "Basically, we're on schedule," he said.

The deadline to receive bids on the purchase of steel for a mezzanine, which is part of the project, is 1 p.m. Friday "Once the steel bid has been accepted, the prices quoted are good for 30 days, Owen said.

In March, Lexington Center board approved an upgrade to the locker rooms that was initiated by coach John Calipari.

Calipari has received $2.5 million in commitments from private donors for the $2.9 million project; the remaining $400,000 would come from the capital reserve fund of the Lexington Center Corp.

Renovations will include improvements to the training room, adding a hydro-therapy treatment whirlpool, a medical room with an X-ray machine, team meeting room, a second coach's office, team lounge and food service area and a new press area.

Four other athletic locker rooms will be upgraded and eight small dressing rooms, used by performers who play Rupp, will be converted into four large rooms.

A second floor mezzanine for storage will be built on the west side of the arena.

Private donations for the work will be channeled through the Blue Grass Community Foundation. Because the Lexington Center Corp. is a not-for-profit organization, rather than a charitable entity, it cannot accept direct donations, and donors could not take tax deductions.

The foundation, however, can accept and make direct donations to the Lexington Center. Donors to the project will be eligible for tax deductions because their money goes through the foundation.

Calipari plans to publicly recognize donors to the locker room complex, university spokesman Jay Blanton said soon after the project was unveiled.

Owen told his board that the Blue Grass Community Foundation will set up two funds to direct money to the locker room and arena overhaul.

The first fund has been set up with $100,000, and the foundation has hired the firm of Sherman Carter Barnhart architects to design the project, Owen said.

There was no competitive bidding for the design contract.

That was because conventions centers and arenas can be considered charitable because they serve the public good, said Lisa Adkins, foundation president and CEO.

"The foundation can enter into a very specific agreement with the Lexington Center Corporation to use charitable money for a specific charitable purpose," in this case hiring an architectural firm to design the renovation, Adkins said. The agreement sets out a time line and spells out oversight responsibilities.

The second fund will contain the remainder of the $2.5 million to pay construction costs. Owen said. It has not yet be set up.

But a second agreement will be drawn up between the foundation and Lexington Center Corp. "that spells out how the money will be delivered to the Lexington Center and how bills get paid," he said.

Construction is scheduled to start Mary 21.

Work needs to be substantially completed when the circus comes to town in September, Owen said, and fully completed by Oct. 12, the night of Big Blue Madness.

"That's 165 days from May 21," Owen said. "I don't need a big calendar counting off the days to remind me. I feel enough pressure."

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