'Team Rupp' memberships were key in arena funding failure, senat - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Senators say 'Team Rupp' memberships were key in arena funding failure

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FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Fan memberships to fund part of the Rupp Arena renovations became a key sticking point that doomed the effort to finance the improvements, Kentucky senators said.

Lexington officials expect to receive $35 million from fans buying a stake in the $310 million arena and convention center rebuild, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said.

"What happens if this $35 million amount is not met?" Stivers asked Wednesday, hours after lawmakers adjourned for the year. "It's not a simple issue of, here's the money, go build the project."

Stivers and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo both said the proposed $80 million in state bonding for the project wasn't worthy of a special session.

Only Gov. Steve Beshear has the power to call lawmakers back to Frankfort. In separate statements Wednesday, Beshear said he remained committed to the project but hadn't decided whether to call a special session.

"It's too early to determine if a special session on any topic is prudent or needed," Beshear said.

The extra sessions cost taxpayers about $65,000 a day.

The $300 arena memberships, which Lexington officials expect 140,000 fans to purchase, are one of the issues that concerned senators over the last two weeks.

The University of Kentucky also hasn't signed a new lease with the city-owned arena, something project supporters are counting on as a major part of the financing plan.

"The questions that the Senate kept asking are going to require answers before they can move forward," Stumbo said. "(Lexington and UK officials) are going to have to give those answers, and it doesn't appear they can do that right now."

Stumbo lamented that construction costs will likely increase, even though lawmakers say there's no deadline for the project.

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