A New Rupp Arena?

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For the past couple years, there’s been talk of a new arena in downtown Lexington. The parties involved are still studying this, but a report is supposed to come out next month. To that end, Andrew Battista recently explored the subject, comparing Lexington’s new arena plans with other cities. Agree or disagree with him, it’s a great read.

Here’s just a brief taste from the introduction:

Lexington taxpayers should be suspicious next month when the London sports marketing firm IMG/ISG releases a feasibility study to determine whether or not Lexington can replace Rupp Arena, which is now 33 years old.  The study, authorized by the Lexington Center Corporation and endorsed by the University of Kentucky, will detail the logistics behind financing and building an arena that, for many people, seems to be superfluous.  Worse, it smacks of corporate welfare, an all-too familiar scenario in Kentucky, where politicians divvy out tax breaks, subsidies, and preferential treatment to profiteering entities that least need a helping hand.

The prospective new Rupp Arena raises several questions for Lexington, a city whose leadership has shown itself exceedingly willing to spend public money in ways that benefit private enterprises.  Each year, taxpayers in the United States spend over $2 billion on privately-owned sports stadiums and arenas.  How much public money will go toward building a new arena in Lexington?  Who will profit from a new arena?  Can the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG), which faces a $27 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year and is obliged to provide its citizens with infrastructure upgrades, justify contributing any money toward a new basketball arena?

These questions are complex, and since IMG/ISG (the prospective investor) stands to profit from a new arena with luxury suites, more seats, and top-notch amenities, their feasibility study may not address these issues directly or honestly.

He goes on from there in some depth. It’s worth checking out.



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