New agreement between UofL, KFC Yum! Center clears first hurdle - News, Weather & Sports

New agreement between UofL, KFC Yum! Center clears first hurdle

The KFC Yum! Center (Source: WAVE 3 News Archives) The KFC Yum! Center (Source: WAVE 3 News Archives)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The University of Louisville Board of Directors on Thursday passed the new agreement between the university and the KFC Yum! Center to help pull the arena out of financial crisis.

The agreement, which calls for UofL to pay approximately $75 million toward the KFC Yum! Center's bonds over the next 30 years, comes from a shortfall of funds to pay the bonds that started almost 10 years ago. It applies pressure on the athletic department, as UofL fans might start to wonder whether ticket prices will increase.

With a surcharge of $2 added to last year's ticket prices, one board member said, last year's attendance dropped by 12 percent. Now, that surcharge could more than triple, which some said isn't affordable.

Other board members said the annual $2.5 million payment over 30 years isn't affordable for the university, and they want to know where the money will come from. Dr. Greg Postel, the interim UofL president, said that discussion will come later.

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Right now, the options include putting a ticket cost on every athletic event, which means students would be paying, too. Surcharges could increase by $6 for UofL basketball tickets, while parking will remain the same. The athletic department could negotiate the women's volleyball tournament to help save $80,000 each year. 

While saying he approves the new agreement, UofL Vice President and Director of Athletics Tom Jurich said he also hopes other departments within the university step up and pitch in money, too.

A source close to the athletic department told WAVE 3 News on Wednesday that Jurich was unaware of the new contract, but Postel denied that claim on Thursday, saying Jurich had been part of the ongoing conversations for quite some time.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky and Louisville Metro Government will be paying toward the KFC Yum! Center. 

Postel said he wasn't strong armed by the government, but something has to be done.

"What are we ... guilty of success?" asked board member Dr. Larry Benz. "(We're) putting a highly competitive team on the court, and having a lot of success with that. We understand the community need to step up. But I think it sets a really bad precedent if things go tough because attendance is down, someone in 2038 is going to say, 'I thought we cured this several years ago.'" 

Under the agreement, the bonds are expected to mature by December 2047 if tax increment financing remains healthy for the state to uphold its end of the deal. That's something one board member said has failed them in the past.

UofL blames the existing problem on the economic crisis back in 2008. 

The Board of Trustees will meet Thursday afternoon to give its take on the proposed agreement. A meeting by the Louisville Arena Authority will follow the Board of Trustees meeting.

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