Kentuckians are known for lot things: our music, our generosity and our fighting spirit, just to name a few; and of course, we are also known for the best basketball in the country. Over the past two years, the General Assembly has been working hard to make sure that Kentucky remains the center of the college basketball universe.
During the 2013 session the General Assembly worked on a plan that would “kick start” the renovation of Rupp Arena by providing seed money for plans, impact studies and the other necessities that must be completed on any project long before the first hammer is swung. These are all necessary costs that must be covered if we ever want to see a renovated Rupp Arena at the University of Kentucky.
The funding of this project has been unfairly targeted by some because the $2.5 million for these plans came from uncommitted multi-county coal severance funds. I do not feel this is a fair criticism because I said then, and repeat now, that every penny of this money would be returned to the coal severance fund and that absolutely no coal county would see a dime less for the local projects and resources their residents depend on.
With the close of the 2014 legislative session, I am happy to report that we have kept our word and ensured that this money will be paid back in full while the naysayers who lambasted the General Assembly for this move have been proved wrong.
Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center may not be in a coal producing region, but they are important to our Commonwealth as a whole in many ways. Rupp, as we all know, houses our University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball team, which brings an enormous amount of pride and visibility to Kentucky across the county. The arena as well as the attached convention center also helps drive Kentucky’s economy by bringing out-of-state travelers to the Commonwealth for events which helps fill our state coffers.
When we loaned the project $2.5 million for the planning and development of the renovation of Rupp, it was just that – a loan. I made it clear from the outset that this money was not a giveaway and that it was to be paid back in full to the Coal Severance Fund. With the passage of House Bill 301 earlier this month, we mandated the process for those funds to be returned in full and on schedule.
No coal counties will lose out on funding, Lexington or the State’s General Fund Surplus Account will repay the loan in full. Rupp Arena’s much needed renovation continues to move forward. This is the definition of a “win-win.”
As we continue the discussion on how to finance the renovation of Rupp Arena, there will be a lot of talk on where, how and when funding will be provided. I hope that folks will remember – when it came to the very first commitment to a new Rupp Arena Project– the Kentucky House of Representatives recognized the need to plan the project and took the necessary actions to provide the seed money. Let’s not forget that the House was there as well this year in supporting the additional bonding this project will need.