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Leaders hoping to get help from BBN to fund the Rupp Arena renovation

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Reinventing Rupp Arena is a big project. The home of the UK men's basketball team will receive a major upgrade which is estimated to cost millions of dollars.

While state and city leaders are still discussing how that will be paid for, they're hoping to get some help from the Big Blue Nation.

Renovating Rupp Arena is pricey with it estimated at $310 million dollars to be exact. City leaders and those involved in the renovation expect $65 million from the state. That's included in Governor Steve Beshear's proposed budget. But obviously a lot more money needs to be funded to get the job done.

"Rupp Arena needs to be renovated. It should have been renovated a long time ago," said Victor Enaker, who is a part of UK alumni. "It needs to be showcased. It needs to be something special."

So city leaders are getting creative. Mayor Jim Gray's office has confirmed for us that funding for the reinvented Rupp could come from selling memberships in the Big Blue Nation.

"I thought businesses and all the private people that are investing were going to be able to pay for it, but it'd be a good way to get money for it," said Cole Ogden, who is a UK fan.

"They would definitely buy them," said Sam Kissick, another UK fan. "I could see people doing that. There's a lot of fanatics."

It would essentially let people buy and claim ownership in the Big Blue Nation. It's similar to what the Green Bay Packers have done for years to help fund their stadium improvements in Wisconsin.

"If it works for them, why wouldn't it work for us?" said Ogden.

But how much will the memberships cost? And what are the incentives? If any? We asked city leaders those questions, but for now they say it's too early to talk details.

"I'd like to know how much it costs before I actually got one, but if the incentives paid off, it'd be worth it," said Ogden.

Even without much information about what the memberships entail, UK fans we talked to agreed it's an idea that could work.

"People will be happy to pay whatever. Anything to be a part of the Big Blue Nation," said Enaker.

The city is working on a detailed financial plan. It will involve several partners including a long-term lease with UK, the state legislature, and the Urban County Council.


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