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Architectural firm, construction team chosen to redesign Rupp Arena, convention center

(KyForward file photo)

(KyForward file photo)


The architectural firm behind the redesign of UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion was chosen by the Lexington Center Corp. to lead the redesign of Rupp Arena Wednesday morning at its board meeting.


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Architectural firm NBBJ, working with Lexington architectural firm EOP, was chosen as the master architect for Rupp Arena and the Convention Center. NBBJ has worked on a variety of projects including the Paul Brown Stadium, UC Riverside’s C-Center, the Staples Center, Lincoln Financial Field, Safeco Field and Hangzhou Stadium. NBBJ led the re-design of UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. NBBJ was founded in 1943 in Seattle and has locations in Beijing, Boston, Columbus, London, Los Angeles, New York, Pune, San Francisco, Seattle and Shanghai.


Mayor Jim Gray speaks at Wednesday's news conference (Photo by Judah Taylor)

Mayor Jim Gray speaks at Wednesday’s news conference (Photo by Judah Taylor)

“In so many ways as we think about our practice’s values and we think about what Rupp Arena has meant to Lexington, to Kentucky basketball, it’s such an exciting fit and such an exciting opportunity for us to be a part of this project,” NBBJ partner Robert Mankin said.


“The statement was made earlier that both Rupp Arena and the Lexington Center were state of the art when they were first built, and they will be state of the art again. This is not a project that will need to be renovated in 10 years. This is a project that will look out and redefine the city longterm for 50, 100 years into the future.”


Hunt Construction Group, which completed the original construction of Rupp Arena in 1976, was chosen as the construction manager of the project. Hunt, which has an office in Cincinnati, has previous projects including Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Marlins Park in Miami and Citi Field in New York. Hunt recently completed a $100 million renovation of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.


“It was a calling card,” said Hunt Construction Chairman and CEO Robert G. Hunt of his firm’s involvement in the original Rupp Arena construction. “This was an iconic structure, it still is. It’s been a great venue of the university, all the wonderful wins that have happened here. Rupp arena is still known nationwide as a crown jewel in arena construction.


“To be back again and participating in bringing Rupp Arena forward in the next 40 years is really an exciting opportunity.”


The Rupp Arena Arts and Entertainment District Task Force issued its master plan in January 2012. In June, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced the finalists for the architectural firms competing to redesign Rupp Arena and the convention center.


Gov. Steve Beshear speaks at Wednesday's news conference. (Photo by Judah Taylor)

Gov. Steve Beshear speaks at Wednesday’s news conference. (Photo by Judah Taylor)

Groundbreaking is scheduled for the fall of 2014, according to NBBJ’s news release. UK is expected to be able to continue to play in the arena during construction. The renovation and expansion of Lexington Center will add approximately 100,000 square feet to the facility by doubling space for exhibitions, while adding a new ballroom and meeting room spaces.


Specific funding for the project has not yet been established.


“Of course challenges remain, including the question of funding. A financing plan must be fully developed,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “A number of issues must still be resolved. But I’m happy to report to you that all of the stakeholders have been and are at the table — the city, the state, the Lexington Center Corporation, University of Kentucky and others. All working together closely and in good faith to resolve these issues. And I am confident that at the end of the day we’re going to see a new Rupp Arena Arts & Entertainment District.”


One of those stakeholders, the University of Kentucky, remains active in discussions about the project but has questions about possible funding sources.


“Today marks another important step in the development of a compelling vision for our community,” said Eric Monday, UK’s executive vice president for finance and administration, who attended the news conference today, in a statement to KyForward. “We have pledged to be partners in this process as we believe, along with Mayor Gray, that the futures of UK and Lexington are inextricably linked. We continue to have productive discussions with all of the partners involved about downtown and the role of the university. At the same time, we must continue to balance that partnership with the goals of the university. We must maintain the strong standards and operations established by our men’s basketball and other programs and we must continue on the clear path set forth by our Board of Trustees, President Capilouto and the broad campus community: 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.”


In a document posted on the Rupp Arena, Arts and Entertainment District website on Tuesday, the Lexington Center Corp. issued a formal request for proposals for naming rights for the convention center.


The convention center and arena naming rights would be sold separately. Lexington Center Corp. Chairman Brent Rice noted that while “Rupp Arena” will remain part of the arena name, it could be paired with a corporate sponsorship.


“That’s where our marketing folks will come in and help,” he said. “But we think there’s significant value in a company to have its name associated with Rupp Arena.”


While the project still faces several hurdles, Wednesday’s announcement is an important day for Lexington, said Mayor Jim Gray.


“In the journey of life and in the journey of cities and states and great institutions, it’s often one step at a time. Some of those steps are modest steps, and some of those steps are giant steps,” he said. “Today was one of those giant steps. It takes a lot of courage and it takes a lot of energy and vision to take these kind of steps that move us all forward.”


KyForward intern Judah Taylor contributed to this story

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