UK Men's Basketball

Size of new Rupp a concern

If a new basketball arena is built behind the Lexington Center, residents in the High Street area want it to be sensitive in design and scale to historic buildings that would surround it on three sides.

More than 100 people turned out to hear details about the arena that would replace the aging Rupp Arena. While it was a generally receptive audience, people wanted to know how the arena be integrated into the west end of downtown.

Would the height and design be compatible with Historic Woodward Heights on one side, Historic South Hill on the other and Historic Pleasant Green Baptist Church on the third?

Jerry Fawcett, chief architect with HKS Architects in Dallas, said the city and university had been firm early on that these issues would worry the community.

Design work has not started, Fawcett said, but the firm knows these are important considerations and will solicit input from neighbors if the project gets the go ahead from the city and the University of Kentucky.

Financing for the project would be from a private equity fund set up by investment bankers Goldman Sachs to invest in private arenas around the world.

No taxpayer money would be be used to build the 24,000 seat arena. And no money would be diverted from UK academics, said UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart.

A financial feasibility study is under way.

"We will know by the end of January whether this project is a go or no-go," said Tom Stultz, president of IMG College, the world's largest sports marketing company which bought out Lexington's Host comuniciations in 2007 and is doing the feasibility study.