After teetering for months, the Rupp Arena renovation plan finally fell flat Wednesday when Lexington mayor Jim Gray announced a suspension of work on the project -- which also would have included a new downtown convention center at a total cost of $350 million -- citing the University of Kentucky's withdrawal of support for a proposed annual $10.7 million lease beginning in 2018. UK men's basketball is Rupp's primary tenant at its current lease expires after the 2017-18 season. Gray met with university president Eli Capilouto last week in a last-ditch effort to reach a compromise both sides could live with. That didn't happen. "He didn't feel like the public had the appetite for the project right now," Gray told The Courier-Journal, "and he could do with less of a project. He said the bleacher seats in the upper arena are fine. He didn't think adding suites was a priority. He was talking about a proposal where the university would commit 10-15 percent of the original commitment, which would mean the scope of the project would change completely." Gray said he told Capilouto he would consider a scaled-down project, and did, but ultimately concluded that it would "take months to rework" the detailed plan already in place. "When the time is right, we've got a good plan," Gray said. "The plan is ready." The project -- which is already millions of dollars and three years in the works, with designs drawn up and unveiled in a grand news conference in February -- had recently suffered significant blows. First, the state's General Assembly shot down a request for $80 million to help fund the project. Then in late May, Capilouto sent a scathing letter to project chairman Brent Rice, who'd pressed the university to come out publicly in support of the project.
Plan for Rupp Arena renovation halted
Louisville Courier-Journal | Jun 19