Partners. Competitors. Rivals at the bargaining table.
That's the delicate relationship the University of Kentucky and Lexington civic leaders find themselves in the proposed Rupp Arena re-invention. Both sides hope to benefit if Rupp gets an extreme makeover: Mayor Jim Gray achieves the centerpiece in his plan to revitalize downtown Lexington; UK basketball no longer has to be blue with envy about Louisville playing in the shiny Yum Center.
That's the partner part.
The all-important problem of paying for the re-invention (plus a revamped Lexington Convention Center elsewhere in Gray's grandiose plan for an Arts & Entertainment District) makes the two sides competitors. UK seemingly wants the same state funding to pay for president Eli Capilouto's signature project: an upgrade of campus buildings and services to enhance the students' experience.
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Eric Monday, UK's executive vice president for finance and administration, touched on that point in a statement released last week when Gray, Lexington Center Corp. and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear celebrated the hiring of architects and a construction firm for the renovation of Rupp and the convention center.
After noting how UK shares Gray's stated belief that the university and city are co-dependents, Monday got to the point. "Our top priority for scarce state operating and capital dollars continues to be revitalizing our campus infrastructure to enhance the quality of the education, research and service we provide for Lexington and the Commonwealth," he said.
Or as Pink Floyd more succinctly put it, "Keep your hands off my stack."
UK, which kick-started Gray's imagination three years ago by acknowledging it couldn't afford to build its own new arena, must bargain with the Lexington Center Corp. A new arena means a new rental agreement. How will revenues from the luxury suites, loge boxes, private lounge and clubs be divided? Lexington needs that money to pay for the project. UK wants it to maximize the facility's revenue possibilities (see blue-with-envy reference above).
For perspective, we turned to Frank Butler. He once held Monday's job at UK. Now, he's the project director for the Lexington Center Corp.
Butler recalled how then UK president Otis Singletary viewed the construction of Rupp Arena in the mid-1970s.
"He was not wildly excited about the prospect," Butler said. "He thought it would be nice. But it wasn't anything that Dr. Singletary jumped on the bandwagon and waved the Big Blue flag for." Football was Singletary's passion. "Doc" Singletary was happy with Rupp Arena as a "pretty place to play basketball," Butler said.
Recalling the past and looking to the future, Butler noted the difference Rupp Arena originally made.
"The downtown was morbid," he said. "People wouldn't come downtown. Not giving Rupp Arena full credit for what happened, but it was a catalyst.
"And in my view, it's time to 're-catalyze.'"
To explain how he fears the Rupp Arena re-invention may divide the Big Blue Nation or even exclude some fans, former UK football player Brian Siddens offered a vivid example from the classic movie, It's a Wonderful Life. Proposed luxury suites, loge boxes and private lounge would create haves and have-nots. So be it.
But taking off the name Rupp entirely or giving it a corporate prefix? That made Siddens think of how money-grubbing banker Henry Potter (Lionel Barrymore) seeks to dominate Bedford Falls' citizens to the point the fictional town will be re-named Pottersville.
"Reminds me of Mr. Potter vs. George Bailey (James Stewart)," Siddens wrote in an email. "Too bad the George Baileys in the world today don't have a chance, let alone someone to represent them. Which I guess wouldn't matter since money seems to win out these days."
In It's a Wonderful Life, Bailey's guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, comes to the rescue and Potter is foiled.
"Where's Clarence Odbody when you need him?" Siddens wrote. "I think the people with money need a visit from him to see what a 'wonderful life' UK already has as well as those who will be left behind by the buyout (to monied interests)."
UK fan Jeanette Hislope made much the same point a week earlier. She talked of opting out of Big Blue Nation rather than see Rupp Arena embody a caste system.
With prices and bottom-line thinking on the increase, the value of an unforgettable memory for Joe Fan diminishes, Siddens suggested.
"It's a shame that money is taking away from the 'have-nots' that would love to have a memory of even one game in Rupp or Commonwealth Stadium," he wrote. "... I know there's no way to stop it, but UK basketball doesn't have to play in an NBA arena even though they play like an NBA team."
Siddens grew up in Louisville and came to UK in 1996. He was among the backup quarterbacks to Tim Couch.
His lasting Rupp memory came when his friend on the basketball team, Heshimu Evans, got him a ticket to see UK rout Vandy. Now living in Murray, he wonders if he'll attend another home game. Or if anyone cares.
"I'm sure, in time, it'll be forgotten," he said of UK games becoming cost-prohibitive for some fans. "For those of us who can no longer afford to come, it's just a memory."
Leftovers from a week that saw the start of July recruiting camps and the Lexington Center Corp. Board of Directors hire architects and a construction company for the Rupp Arena re-invention:
ï® A correction on the fees. The architectural firm NBBJ will receive $1.4 million for its Rupp designs and $1.1 million for its plans for the convention center. Hunt Construction Group, Inc., will receive $300,000 for its pre-construction services.
ï® Darin Minniefield, the son of former UK standout Dirk Minniefield, played in the Adidas Invitational. The younger Minniefield, a 6-1 point guard in the class of 2014, plans to attend prep school to further prepare for the Division I level, his father said.
ï® Surely no one appreciates the fickle ways of recruiting more than Jonathan Macura. Late last month, the scrappy 6-5 guard visited Butler. "I believed I'd fit in perfectly," he said.
Then Butler Coach Brad Stevens spoke of his ambitions for the future with Macura on the team. "Quite a bit," the player said. "I don't think he knew he was going to be moving."
Stevens surprised everyone, including Macura, by accepting the offer to coach the Boston Celtics. "I was just really shocked," said Macura, who continues to consider Butler as a possible college choice.
Elvis v. Beatles
Wade Smith, the producer for a planned documentary film on the Kentucky-Louisville basketball rivalry, used the heaviest of pop music heavyweights to describe how the competition compels fans to line up on one side or the other.
"It's either Elvis Presley or the Beatles," Smith said in putting in context the documentary titled, The Rivalry: Red v. Blue.
Smith, a native of Paintsville, would cast UK as the beloved Elvis and U of L as the Beatles, who he said can claim "an elite group of diehard (fans)."
Since the fall of 2011, Smith and director Rory Delaney have worked on what they intend to be a 90-minute documentary on the UK-U of L basketball rivalry. They hope to have the film in theaters shortly before next season's UK-U of L game. Each spoke about the good fortune of timing: UK won the 2012 national championship, U of L the 2013 national championship.
"We got totally lucky," Delaney said.
In what might be a stretch, Smith lumped UK Coach John Calipari's threat to end the series as another attention-getter. Of course, Calipari asked UK fans to choose which traditional series they could accept ending: UK-U of L, UK-Indiana, UK-North Carolina.
"Even if they didn't play each other, I think the rivalry would still be there," Smith said. "It's so strong."
Delaney, a native of Louisville now living in southern California, linked Calipari's threat to end the UK-U of L series to his "soap opera" relationship with Cards Coach Rick Pitino.
"It's strange," he said of the idea of ending the UK-U of L series.
Of course, Kentucky did end its series with Indiana. "I still think it's crazy," Delaney said. "It's such an important rivalry as well."
But that's perhaps another documentary for another day.
Other rivalries (Duke-North Carolina? Kansas-Missouri?) might seem as compelling as UK-U of L. Key word: Might.
"In other states, they like the football team just as much as the basketball team," Smith said. "Especially in Eastern Kentucky, it's all basketball. We didn't even know we had a football team until this year."
Delaney and Smith have launched an effort to raise funds to pay for the right to use the school's logos ($8,000 to each school) and other final costs in making the documentary. Information is at http://redvbluefilm.com/louisville-basketball-rivalry.
The NFL will require teams to install cameras in locker rooms so fans in stadiums can watch the supposed behind-closed-door scenes unfold on video boards.
FYI: Red Auerbach balked at a similar idea about 50 years ago when the NBA wanted to allow a TV camera in locker rooms at halftime (As noted in Ecclesiastes, there's nothing new under the sun, kids). If the NBA insisted on a camera, Auerbach said he and the Celtics would sit in silence. The NBA nixed the idea.
As the mind drifted to the All Access Kentucky show last fall, former Dallas Cowboys Coach Barry Switzer offered an Auerbachian reaction to the NFL installing cameras in locker rooms.
"If I was coaching, I would kick their a-- out of there because it's now going to be all theatrical," Switzer told the Wall Street Journal. "You're turning coaches into damn actors. It's sickening to see that (cameras) are able to do this. It's fake. It's phony."
Don't let me down
In case you missed it, this obituary in the Columbus Dispatch last Sunday has gained a wide circulation:
"Scott E. Entsminger, 55, of Mansfield, died Thursday, July 4, 2013 at his residence. Born January 8, 1958 in Columbus, Ohio, he was the son of William and Martha (Kirkendall) Entsminger. He retired from General Motors after 32 years of service. He was an accomplished musician, loved playing the guitar and was a member of the Old Fogies Band. A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time."
To former UK forward Bernard Cote'. He turned 31 on Friday. ... To CBS sportscaster Verne Lundquist, whose résumé of famous calls includes the Christian Laettner game. He turns 73 on Wednesday.