Fayette County

Lexington council approves up to $20 million more for convention center expansion

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted Thursday on a resolution that would pledge up to $20 million in additional funding for the proposed expansion and renovation of the Lexington Convention Center.

The council had previously approved $10 million in 2016 for the proposed $230 million expansion. Lexington Center Corporation, which oversees the convention center and Rupp Arena, has said they will not know how much additional money the convention center will need until construction bids come back sometime this spring. Officials have told the council they likely will not need the full $20 million.

The proposed expansion that includes 100,841 square feet of exhibition space, 25,080 square feet of ballroom space and 14 meeting rooms. The total square footage for the new complex is 756,593 feet.

Councilman Richard Moloney was the only council member to vote against the resolution Thursday. Moloney has previously said the convention center should stay within its original budget and said he doesn’t want to authorize more money for the project until he understands where all the money for the project is coming from.

Previously, Lexington Center officials have said money generated from a 2.5 percent hotel tax increase would pay off $230 million in bonds, including more than $60 million in state money that was part of a state budget approved by the General Assembly in 2016. Other funding sources include a 15-year lease with UK that is expected to generate more than $100 million over the tenure of the lease.

Yet-to-be announced naming rights for the complex would also generate money to pay off the renovation, officials have said. As part of the lease with UK, UK will now be able to market those naming rights. Rupp Arena is not part of the naming rights deal. It will remain Rupp Arena.

VisitLex, the county’s tourism bureau, has also pledged $750,000 a year to help pay off the debt. That tourism board has not yet voted on the $750,000 annual pledge.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall