Plans Call for UK Basketball Right Through Construction

Jul 10, 2013


More details in a massive effort to rebuild an iconic basketball arena in Lexington have fallen into place.  But, a plan for funding the project, which also includes a new convention center, remains unclear.

In a flashy event, complete with large screen videos and hard driving music, the companies that will design and rebuild Rupp Arena were named.  The lead architectural firm is N-B-B-J.  It's the same firm that designed Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, L-A's Staples Center and Safeco Field in Seattle. Architect Robert Mankin admits one of the biggest challenges is getting all the interested parties on board while the design details are ironed out.

“So that everyone is in agreement on how the building is gonna function and what types of events it will hold and the question about what types of retail might be integrated into it.  Those are all things that need to be decided on rather quickly for us to keep moving forward,” said Mankin.

The construction work itself will be done by Hunt Construction Group.  It's the same firm that built Rupp Arena, which opened in 1976.  Company C-E-O Bob Hunt says basketball and construction can co-exist, allowing the Wildcats to play at Rupp during the  two years it will take to complete the project.

 “There will be times when we have to take sections of the arena and work in it.  But, we’re gonna dove tail with what their events are so we have minimal if any impact on those events, but it will be hop scotching around in doing some of the work,” said Hunt.

Among those people attending the event was Paul Barrett, who owns Lafayette Galleries, which is located in the Shops at  Lexington Center.  Barrett's concerned the construction of a convention center will drive away a lot of current retail tenants.

“Most of the tenants are very concerned.  They’re also concerned about the jobs.  There’s a hundred and eighty jobs here.  Now, the thing is there hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about what’s gonna happen there,” said Barrett.

Still no solid answers about financing the two projects, which the Lexington Herald Leader reports could cost an estimated 260-million dollars.  Governor Steve Beshear, who joined in the event, says both state and local governments will certainly lend financial support.  However, Lexington Center Board Chair Brent Rice adds a local sales tax has been ruled out.  Construction is slated to begin in 2014.