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UK athletics, Toyota are biggest contributors to Rupp Arena task force

This rendering shows a conceptual view of Rupp Arena from the outside. The project involving Rupp and the surrounding area would take 10 to 20 years.
This rendering shows a conceptual view of Rupp Arena from the outside. The project involving Rupp and the surrounding area would take 10 to 20 years.

The University of Kentucky Athletics Department and Toyota were the two largest donors to a task force that recently developed a plan to revitalize Rupp Arena and the surrounding portion of downtown.

UK Athletics gave $50,000 and Toyota gave $35,000 to the group, which raised $380,950, according to a list obtained by the Herald-Leader under the Open Records Act.

Many of the other donors included members of the task force, including Greg Goodman, whose Mount Brilliant Family Foundation gave $10,000. W.T. Young LLC gave $20,000. Young's son Chris served on the task force.

Other corporate donors included LG&E and KU Services Co. ($25,000), Kentucky American Water ($10,000) and Fifth Third Bank ($10,000).

The 47-member Arena, Arts & Entertainment District Task Force issued a final report in January that envisions a $250 million to $300 million "transformation" of Lexington Center, including Rupp Arena, the Lexington Convention Center, the Shoppes at Lexington Center and immediate environs. It did not outline a specific plan to pay for the project.

The task force proposed renovating the city-owned arena and building a new convention center immediately west of Rupp.

The group held its first organizational meeting in April 2011 and set a goal of raising $350,000 in private donations. Attorney Brent Rice, chairman of the task force, told those at the meeting he was not asking anyone in the room for money, "but I will be calling you."

Rice said he called individuals and companies throughout the community. "I told them the money needed to be raised privately and I would like to have their support," he said.

Rice said he did not suggest a specific amount in most cases.

Mayor Jim Gray, who gave $15,500, also made calls, as did Kevin Atkins, chief development officer on the mayor's staff.

"Many members of the task force were very helpful speaking with firms, companies and talking with their partners," Rice said.

Contributions ranged from $50,000 to $100. "We took all donations gladly," he said.

Debbie Long, owner of Dudley's on Short, made a $2,000 in-kind donation of a cocktail party for Gary Bates after it was announced he would be the architect and master planner for the project.

"I've got a pretty major financial commitment down here. It is important to me to see downtown succeed," Long said. "We've got so much going on downtown. I want to see that continue. If we can bring in people like 21c (Museum Hotels) and other creative people, it's worth every penny I can put into it."

Deirdre Lyons, director of design and construction for Alltech, donated $10,000 because she said the task force's work was important.

"To separate Rupp Arena from Lexington Center, for each has a separate identity, is a great idea," said Lyons, who noted that Alltech uses Lexington Center several times a year. "The opportunity to build a modern, new Lexington Center with up-to-date-features is exciting. That could attract a lot more conventions, which would add to our economy."

Most of the money raised was spent on contracts for architects and consultants. These included:

■ $200,000 for SpaceGroup, the Norwegian architecture firm represented by Bates, who created the major design for the Rupp district.

■ $90,000 to Urban Collage, an urban planning group that facilitated the entire process.

■ $25,000 to Global Spectrum for a feasibility study on updating Rupp Arena.

■ $12,000 to Bullhorn Marketing for a video documenting the Rupp District vision.

■ $3,000 to WM Technology to create the Rupp District Web site.

■ $3,000 to Saturn Consulting for the feasibility study on space for the arts.

Other smaller costs included printing, buses and food.

Some of the contributions, like Long's, were in-kind, including $6,000 from Global Aviation for a plane to take task force members to Columbus, Ohio, to look at its arena. Global Aviation is owned by Royce Pulliam, who also owns Global Fitness Holdings. Pulliam was a task force member and his company donated $10,000.

Ray Ball of Ball Homes also provided the use of a plane for an in-kind donation of $4,500 for the task force trip to Indianapolis. Gray Construction, the mayor's family's company, also gave $4,500 in-kind for the use of its plane to Indianapolis.

The next step, Gray said, will be to pull together funding for the planning phase of the project. Planning needs include developing a business plan, getting detailed drawings for Rupp Arena and a new Lexington Center and initial construction costs. The planning phase is estimated to cost $5 million.

The General Assembly awarded $2.5 million for the design phase. Gray included $1.25 million in his proposed 2013 budget for the required match. Rice said work was under way on raising the remaining $1.25 million. Most of that will come from various government agencies, not private donations.

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