By Jack Brammer and John Cheves – email@example.com
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear is recommending $3.5 million in state bonds to help Lexington plan and design a new 46-acre downtown arts and entertainment district, including a renovated Rupp Arena.
Funding for the Lexington project is included in $778 million worth of building projects that Beshear proposed statewide. Of that amount, only $304 million of the bonds would be paid back using the state’s General Fund, the smallest amount included in a state budget since 1996.
The proposal for downtown Lexington falls far short of the $20 million for which city leaders had hoped.
Beshear said the state money would be matched by $1.5 million from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, for a total of $5 million.
“I know you all have seen some figures like $20 million being thrown around for this project’s planning and design,” Beshear told reporters Tuesday as he shared his two-year budget proposal. “Obviously, we didn’t have that kind of money. … This will at least let them begin.”
Lexington officials estimate that the downtown improvements would take 10 to 20 years to complete. The price tag for reinventing Rupp Arena and a new convention center is estimated at up to $260 million.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said he appreciated Beshear’s support.
“This project goes far beyond our city limits and this funding means we can take the next step forward to elevate our brand, and grow jobs and economic opportunity,” Gray said in a statement. “We appreciate the governor’s vision for a reinvented Rupp Arena, and for the potential to create new arts, educational, commercial, and residential value in the 46 acres the District includes.”
Beshear said funding for downtown Lexington is not in competition with project requests from the University of Kentucky.
He proposed that the state allow UK to spend as much as $175 million on a self-financed project that calls for working with a private company to add 3,000 new dormitory beds. That is in addition to $200 million in new agency bonds for various UK projects that pay for themselves, he said.
Beshear also would authorize other state universities to issue the following agency bonds to buy land and construct or renovate buildings: $64 million for Eastern Kentucky University, $24 million for Morehead State University, $19 million for Murray State University, $67 million for Northern Kentucky University, $39 million for the University of Louisville and $39 million for Western Kentucky University.
Proposed General Fund bond projects
■ $100 million for the School Facilities Construction Commission
■ $54 million for petroleum underground storage tank projects
■ $29.2 million for maintenance of various state facilities
■ $25 million to maintain and renovate university buildings
■ $20 million for high-tech economic development projects
■ $17 million to provide a permanent cap for Maxey Flats, a nuclear waste site about 10 miles northwest of Morehead that Beshear said is leaking
■ $14 million for the state’s fourth veterans’ nursing home, to be located in Radcliff
■ $10 million for wetland restoration on transportation projects
■ $5.5 million for the Council of State Governments building complex in Lexington
■ $5 million for a “one-stop” business portal in the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, designed to help businesses navigate state requirements
■ $5 million for a Medicaid eligibility system
■ $4.6 million for Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund projects
■ $4 million for site acquisition and design of the Breathitt Veterinary Lab in Hopkinsville
■ $3.7 million for the Kentucky Infrastructure authority for wastewater and drinking water projects
■ $3.5 million to start planning and designing a downtown arts district in Lexington, including renovation of Rupp Arena
■ $3 million to develop splash parks at various State Parks
■ $2.5 million for state-owned dam repair
■ $2 million for demolition and construction of State Police training academy building
■ $2 million to upgrade the wastewater system at Fort Boonesborough
■ $2 million to local governments for flood control
■ $1 million for site acquisition and planning for a new medical examiner lab and office in Louisville