UK Men's Basketball

Wildcat Coal Lodge will have tribute to coal

The University of Kentucky's new $8 million Wildcat Coal Lodge won't just refer to coal mining in its name.

According to the agreement between the donors who gave the money — many of them coal operatives — and the University of Kentucky, a tribute exhibit to the coal industry will greet visitors and residents when they come in the front door of the new residence planned for the UK men's basketball team near Memorial Coliseum.

Joseph W. Craft III, who heads Alliance Coal, organized a group of donors to give $7 million for the building; an anonymous donor later gave an additional $1 million, UK officials said. The UK Board of Trustees approved the building's name in 2009.

The lodge will be 20,000 square feet and house 32 students.

The gift agreement, obtained by the Herald-Leader under the state's Open Records Act, says the building "will include an exhibit in the primary entrance lobby which presents in print, photographic, sound, video, DVD and/or other format, a discussion of and tribute to the importance of the coal industry to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which exhibit shall be reasonably acceptable to Craft."

The agreement also says that some recognition will be made to Craft and the other donors. If the exhibit and recognition is not established by the second year of the pledge period, UK will have to return the donations.

Asked about the contract stipulation, Jay Blanton, UK's spokesman, said: "The parameters of — and requirements in — gifts' terms are examined on a case-by-case basis. That was certainly the case here as well."

The proposed name already has caused an uproar on campus, and it spurred famed author Wendell Berry to pull many of his personal papers from the UK archives because he said it indicated the university was in a "manifest alliance" with the coal industry.

Teri Blanton of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth said Wednesday she would like to see a tribute to all the miners who have lost their lives digging for coal in Kentucky.

"Coal has not been good for Kentucky," she said. "I don't think UK is making a good decision."

UK's Blanton, however, said, "Coal is an important part of Kentucky's economy and history and, as such, is certainly appropriate for recognition in a gift such as this one. That doesn't diminish the debate — both in support of and in opposition to — coal and its impact on our state.

"However, unanimity of support for something is not a requirement for acceptance of a gift or its terms."

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