April 2, 2014 —
Folks who believe that college basketball is more important than anything else in Kentucky apparently don’t serve in the State Senate.
If so, they would have agreed with Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky House and approved $65 million in state-backed bonds for renovation of the legendary home of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team and its adjacent convention center.
We are struck by the irony of the situation with UK headed to the Final Four for the third time in four years but Louisville, one of the teams the Cats defeated in the NCAA tournament, has a new arena built four years ago with city and state bonds.
Moreover, it appears financial problems at U of L’s KFC Yum Center in downtown Louisville may be the fly in the ointment for the Rupp project.
Since opening in 2010, the Yum Center has not generated the projected revenue, resulting in downgrading of its bonds and requiring the City of Louisville to substantially increase its annual share of the debt service.
In addition to saying come back in two years for the state bonds for Rupp, the General Assembly likely will not allow Lexington to raise its hotel room tax from 6 percent to 8.5 percent to pay for the $310 million Rupp project.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray appealed to a legislative budget committee to help make the Rupp project a reality but he apparently didn’t share enough details about private financing and UK’s lease terms.
Soon thereafter, it was reported that most of those details have yet to be worked out so the mayor couldn’t answer some of those questions.
In our view, using state bonds for only 20 percent of the Rupp costs is a bargain for state taxpayers.
A two-year wait means even higher construction costs. Does that make sense?