UK president criticizes Lexington Center chair over Rupp project

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The University of Kentucky released a letter to WKYT Wednesday morning. It's directed to the chairman of the Lexington Center Corporation, Brent Rice. In it, UK President Eli Capilouto criticizes the handling of the Rupp Arena renovation financial plan, says Lexington Center officials released inaccurate details about the University's negotiated lease agreement, and takes issue with accusations that UK is to blame for some of the challenges.

The letter is three pages long. Throughout, Capilouto expresses concerns over how details of the project have been handled. He says to Rice, "I am disappointed that you and others associated with the project have chosen to privately and publicly criticize the University of Kentucky."

Capilouto also says the rest of the financing plan shifted several times. Often, he says, "without any perceptible due diligence." Capilouto also says he was "confused" by an accusation that UK was at fault for some uncertainty surrounding scheduling events at the convention center. He says, "The uncertainty created for potential visitors to Lexington - and consequently for the business community - is a product of your inability to maintain your expressed timeline."

Capilouto also criticized the idea that selling "Team Rupp" memberships would generate as much revenue as the financial plan called for. He said, "We were consistent in advising you that we believed this source would generate significantly less than $10 million. Nevertheless, at one time the financing plan included $25 million in projections, only to later escalate to $35 million,"

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray added his thoughts this morning on Twitter.

He said, “Game-changing projects create passion and emotion, especially when things don't go as hoped, so I think it's important to step back, take a deep breath, and sit down with all our partners and work things out. UK is so important to Lexington; and Lexington is so important to UK. A vibrant city engages everyone -- students, fans, families, faculty and staff -- and a vibrant city creates jobs. So I hope we can continue to work on an agreement that benefits UK, Lexington, and our entire state.”

Late Thursday afternoon, Rice responded with his own letter. In it, he said the Lexington Center Corporation Rupp District Committee discussed Capilouto's letter and can move forward with "appropriate business decisions". He said, although he and Capilouto have differing opinions, they "must proceed in our fiduciary roles to ensure the citizens and taxpayers continue to enjoy and benefit from our facilities,".

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