Requests for naming rights to be proposed in new Rupp Arena project

Lexington Comic and Toy Convention at Lexington Convention Center in Lexington, Ky., Sat., March 24, 2012. Photo by Matt Goins 13702
Lexington Comic and Toy Convention at Lexington Convention Center in Lexington, Ky., Sat., March 24, 2012. Photo by Matt Goins 13702 ©2012 Herald-Leader

Frank Butler, director of the Rupp District Project, will issue a request for proposals for naming rights of Lexington's proposed new convention center within 30 days, he said Thursday.

Strategic financial advisers are completing a business model for the project and are validating sources of revenue, Lexington Center Corp. board chair Brent Rice said Thursday at a meeting.

That's one reason for the request for proposals, typically called an RFP.

"We know we have to test the waters because this is a complex project which is going to require various revenue streams so we are trying to identify as many sources of revenue as we can," Rice said in an interview after the meeting.

"We have so many assets here that we really don't know what the true value is. The only way we are going to find out is testing," he said.

At an undetermined date, Rice said, a proposal also will be issued for the naming rights of Rupp Arena, which will be renovated. The Rupp name will still be included, but "there might be somebody who wants to be a sponsor of Rupp Arena," he said. Inside Rupp, there will be opportunities to have naming rights for the floor and other spaces.

Rice said board members want to know what the interest is from national and local developers for parts of the 46 acres that is owned by the Lexington Center Corp. One example would be whether there's interest in developing what's now the High Street parking lot in front of the Hyatt Regency Lexington, he said. Butler and Rice said the 46 acres could be used for housing, among other things.

An RFP will be issued to national developers for retail in the next 90 to 120 days. Butler said he expects that consultants might have a recommendation by June for a specific location on the 46 acres for the proposed new convention center.

Officials say they won't know the total amount of the project until this fall when consultants complete a schematic design.

Planning on the Rupp District Project will cost $5.5 million: $2.5 million from the Urban County Government, $2.5 million from the state and $500,000 from the Lexington Center Corp. and the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Butler said.

Butler has previously issued at least three requests for proposals: one for architectural and engineering services for Rupp's design; a second for the convention center's design; and a third for a firm to be overall construction manager.

By July, an architect will be chosen for the Rupp Arena project and for the convention center. A construction manager for both projects is expected to be named by that time as well, Butler said Thursday.

"We've had responses from some of the top" architectural firms in the country, Rice said. "We're extremely pleased with the qualifications and the projects that these various firms that have responded have been involved in."

Once the funding is worked out, the construction on the proposed new convention center would begin first and then the renovation of Rupp, said Butler. He would not venture a guess on when construction could start.

However, Butler said, "We are going to have seven consultants all working at the same time on all kinds of various portions of this project. This really is now up and going."

Rice said they have been in the planning stage for the past year.

"We've been putting consultants in place," he said. "You are going to see the pace picking up considerably in the next few months."

A 2011 feasibility study of indoor renovations to Rupp Arena shows the lower section of Rupp staying the same. The upper arena would get renovated almost in total, including replacing all the bench seats with chair seats. The concourse would become the location for suites, according to Herald-Leader archives. The study was completed by firms NBBJ and Global Spectrum with subconsultants EOP and Thornton Tomesetti.

More details won't be known until architects begin designing the renovated Rupp, Butler said Thursday.