Category Archives: UK basketball

Obama to honor UK basketball team on Friday; Louisville Cardinals fan Mitch McConnell refuses to attend

As is customary, the President of the United States of America will welcome the NCAA National Champions — in this case, the University of Kentucky Wildcats — to the White House to honor them for their success.

Coach Cal and the Cats — MKG, Mr. Anthony Davis, Darius Miller and the whole crew — will hang out with Barry Hussein in the late afternoon.

Mitch McConnell, ever spiteful and little-in-heart, is blowing off the President and the Kentucky Wildcats.

As The Hill reports, Mitch is choosing to stay in Louisville that day in preparation for the Derby… which of course doesn’t happen ’til the next day and he could easily enough get to DC and back to the Derby City for a long night of bourbon sipping.

Some pot-smoking Bluegrass GOP operatives have strummed up a conspiracy theory that the entire event was orchestrated to make the Minority Leader look like the little man that he is… but as The Hill goes on to note:

A source close to McConnell says he is more a fan of the Louisville Cardinals, who lost to Kentucky in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

McConnell declined to publicly express a preference for either team, however.


Seems like a dumb move to us, but what the hell do we know — maybe Mitch has a hot date at Porcini’s this coming Friday.

Coach Cal, for his part, ignored McConnell’s snub, and instead focused on what was important… the kids.

Apparently the team is really excited to meet President Obama:

“The amazing thing is the first thing that was said when the horn sounded in New Orleans was, ‘We’re going to the White House!’

“It’s one of those moments for these players that they have probably thought about without us even knowing that it was important to them. So I’m excited about the opportunity for them to meet the President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World and someone who is trying to make a difference in their lives.”

Why is Mitch Barnhart misleading the Big Blue Nation?

The private John Calipari-inspired plan to re-do the locker rooms at Rupp Arena — a $2.9 million project — is moving forward reports the Herald:

Preliminary work is under way on upgrading the University of Kentucky men’s basketball locker room and related improvements at Rupp Arena, including hiring a construction manager to supervise the project.

As Mr. Ravioli pointed out in the comments previously, this locker room overhaul hilariously undermines Mitch Barnhart’s attempt to position UK as control of larger arena negotiations.

Last week, Barnhart was on Matt Jones’ Kentucky Sports Radio show and said:

We have told [the city] that we are not going to sign a new lease agreement until we find out if it makes sense for Kentucky. And they have not been able to bring us a new lease agreement with any projections or construction at this point. They have some plans…they are interesting…but anything they do to the arena, whether renovated or new is probably two years down the road.

It’s cute of Mitch and the University to pretend to hold some cards in this debate, but it’s quite clear that if absolutely nothing happens to Rupp Arena, if the coal companies and Toyota and IMG can’t pony up the $300 Million for the project and we have to wait another decade or two for a serious change to that end of downtown, that the University of Kentucky will continue to play basketball in Rupp.

Mitch can play pretend or attempt to mislead the fanbase into some unhelpful level of vitriol and out-of-whack expectation, but Calipari’s getting his new locker rooms and the ‘Cats are staying in Rupp.

Which means the University’s big wigs should grow up and start being helpful instead of playing games.

Go Big Blue: Couch burnings have nothing on a city filled with joy

After the win Saturday night over Louisville, a couple dipsticks burned some couches and maybe a car got flipped over.

This was apparently big news. I’ve had friends from around the country contact me about it as if the whole city was on fire.

It shouldn’t shock you that big media folks are often a little lazy with their stories. Nor is it shocking that a burning couch is more sensational than, say, tens of thousands of people frolicking in the street in a blissed out mix of harmony and ecstasy.

Or wait. Maybe that is the bigger, more important and more remarkable story.

I’m lucky enough to be so old I got to party in the streets in both 1996 and 1998 after UK won the national championship.

Ten thousand people maybe more crushed into the intersection of Woodland and Euclid. A lot of them had been drinking. Next to none of them did anything dangerous, stupid, or violent. We just partied with each other, strangers united in celebration.

People were friendly. They were good natured.

Was it safe? Given that there were ten thousand people in a small, confined space and for the most part absolutely nothing bad happened… yes, yes it was safe.

Did some idiots do some stupid things? Yes they did.

The dumbest thing I saw that night? The TV news crews on top the Bearded Seal/Fishtank building inciting students  to clamor into the camera shot.

The safest thing I saw that night? The mounted police clearing the intersection after an extremely generous amount of time and everyone peacefully getting the hell out of the way.

And the best thing I saw that night was the overall good-naturedness of thousands of celebratory people getting along with each other, regardless of their position, whether reveler or peace-keeper, like this:

There’s nothing wrong with a good peaceable assembly, and on Saturday night in Lexington, the very same thing happened… more cops, more fans, all smiles all around:

And again:

And again:

And more smiles!

So, sure, as Dr. Capilouto warned the students at UK, “Don’t be stupid.”

But that warning could just as easily be extended to any outside observers who’d rather sensationalize a burning couch or two (which probably exacerbates the problem rather than prevents it) than tell the story of damn near everyone else just getting along.

So tonight, don’t be stupid. Be nice to your friends, be good to strangers, and take a picture with a cop because they’re on our side and most all of them are happy to be there, too.

That’s the better story.

And if you’re one of those folks who find yourself in need of new couch come tomorrow morning, there’s a furniture store down in Hazard that’ll give you a UK beanbag:

Fineman on Basketball

I’m probably the only blogger here who doesn’t care all that much about college basketball (as my bracket attests), and to me, this month is largely about drinking margaritas and discussing feminism once a week to celebrate Women’s History Month. But when March madness comes along, I usually throw my allegiances toward Western, my alma mater (go Topps!) and UofL, my adopted home team. My general disinterest in the sport has not stopped several people from sending me this Howard Fineman piece on the intrastate rivalry, however, so I thought I’d share. Frankly, I will be relieved when this is all over, so we can focus on the things that are really important, like political politics and baseball.

(edit: decent WSJ coverage as well)

The 2012 Barefoot and Progressive NCAA Tournament Challenge!

What man or woman of intellect and cunning will have what it takes to win this Liberty Mug on April 2nd?

Yes, it’s that time of year again, so join up in our annual Barefoot and Progressive NCAA Tournament pool and show your stuff — by which I mean guessing about the acumen of teams that you’ve never seen play before, but might have seen some highlights of a few times.

Join the group right here, no password needed.

We also have “organic baby bodysuits” in the B&P store, but those are far too precious to just give away.

Now go hop to it.

Rupp Funding, UK’s Response & UK Housing

The Big Sunday editorial heaped praise on Mayor Gray and the Rupp Area Task Force, then called for realistic numbers in the financing phase:

However, in the next step, estimates and ideas must give way to hard numbers.

Here again, history produces a credibility gap. Painful examples of big ideas drowning out bad numbers are close at hand.

Just down the street from Rupp some of Lexington’s most historic buildings were destroyed because of promises of a huge hotel development financed by a mysterious foreign investor. Instead there’s a block of grassland.

The CentrePointe debacle also included a financial feasibilty plan that contained projections that defied reality.

Down the road in Louisville The KFC Yum Center is struggling to pay its bills because a TIF is not producing the revenue that had been anticipated, leaving the city holding the bill.

Even in these tight times, there are worthy public investments. But both the state and Lexington have little to spare and UK President Eli Capilouto has rightly made it clear he’s going to argue in Frankfort for funding education before athletics.

On that last point, of President Capilouto’s decision to focus his energy on taking state money to sell student housing to a private corporation and not get behind the city’s plans for Rupp, Dan Rowland writes:

I understand and applaud Capilouto’s desire to contrast his aims symbolically with those of his predecessor, notable for the Wildcat Coal Lodge, and other distortions of UK priorities. But to insist repeatedly and forcefully that UK places all its priorities on its own campus and none on the fate of Lexington is a symbolic statement of its own kind — and one that is badly mistaken.

Lexington has a visionary mayor and the best council I can remember. The task force working on the Rupp Arena plan has functioned smoothly, creating a strong consensus around the plans approved Jan. 31. The plan itself is outstanding, the best example of downtown planning by far that I have seen in over 30 years of sitting on downtown planning committees. These opportunities do not come around every day, and UK needs to be on board.

I am one of the most unlikely people to support a renovation of Rupp.

When my wife and I moved to Lexington in 1974, I was appalled by the plan to create a 16-acre parking lot for Rupp.

Continue reading Rowland’s piece here…

Now, while Rowland and the Ed. Board applaud Capilouto for his campus privatization plan (or, make a show of applauding him), one of the paper’s most excellent reporters takes a closer look at deal, prospects, realities and more:

U of L officials, along with those at other schools that have used EdR, call the process largely positive. But UK’s proposed deal is so much bigger and more sweeping — managing all student housing and spending as much as $500 million to replace most of the school’s 6,000 existing beds and add 3,000 more — that it largely covers uncharted territory.

….Although the EdR Web site now features a picture of all its employees in blue UK T-shirts holding Wildcat banners, a contract between the company and UK is not supposed to be approved by the UK Board of Trustees until Feb. 21.

UK officials say going this route gets them out of the costly and complicated business of construction, allowing them more time and money to focus on instruction. Modern and expanded student housing will help recruitment and allow more students to live on campus, which usually helps retention and graduation rates. In addition, UK says, it won’t have to put up any capital in the deal.

But until the details are made public, it’s hard to judge how good a deal it will be for UK and its constituents, said Lou Marcoccia, a vice-president at Syracuse University, who has worked successfully with EdR on much smaller projects.

“The question is, how can EdR put up the capital and operate it and make a profit, and why couldn’t UK do the same thing?” Marcoccia said, referring to UK’s proposal to turn over all its housing stock to EdR. “If it’s such a good idea, why isn’t everyone doing it?”

The piece goes on to examine a number of smaller deals at campuses around the country, looking at financials, and the struggle for transparency as UK works with the private company — Read It.

Rupp Area Task Force Final Meeting

The big show started with this video from Bullhorn Marketing:

You can read the executive summary here (PDF) and Beverly Fortune’s rundown here.

All in all, it was a rehash of where we’ve already been, with Bates and crew again going through the plan as it exists.

[Read about the previous meetings here, see images of the redesign concepts here and here]

The Highlights come from the Executive Summary. There was little new information outside of it (though there were some new images, it seemed.) and almost all the new information comes in the financials (or, very preliminary financials) that come toward the end.

Here we go:

Transformation of the Lexington Center itself, including Rupp Arena, the Lexington Convention Center, the Civic Center Shoppes and immediate environs, is estimated as a $250 to $300mm project that catalyzes all other investment. This important project will require a mix of local, state and private funding for construction. Possible major funding sources include new revenue from premium seating, advertising, sponsorship, concert/event promotions, concessions and parking associated with proposed plans. It will also likely need local and state funding to create a new economic engine. Private fundraising and federal grants and tax credits should be fully explored. The plan also anticipates the establishment of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District to support needed infrastructure and civic facilities.

So the school, the arts place, the sports fields and everything else is outside that funding figure and goal (including Town Branch/Commons/Central Park). No surprise there.

Three year funding and design schedule:

2012: Organization, Business Plan, Survey/Environmental
2013: Concept Design/Engineering, Pre-Construction Estimation & Schedule
2014: Completion of Schematic Design, Confirmation of Construction Funding

If Beshear’s $3.5 Mil and Lex’s $1.5 Mil come through, they get spent like this:

If that $5 mil works out and the $250 to $300 Mil in overall funding for Arena, Convention and Shops is secured (or however much it turns out to be after schematic design alters cost and timeline) by 2014, then…

The construction schedule anticipates an approximate 3 ½-year construction period:
Site Work/Lexington Convention Center Construction (Spring, 2014 – Fall, 2016)
Rupp Arena, Town Branch Park Construction (Spring, 2015 – Summer, 2017)

New Rupp comes by 2017 at this most ambitious pace.

Here’re the 14 avenues of funding they will investigate:

There was quite a bit of talk about TIF financing and it is spread throughout the document. It would be the third Tax Increment area in Lexington joining the Distillery District and the Webb’s failed hotel project (which, if government actually functions, should be forced to go back through the TIF approval process since it’s now a different project… or a non-project).

TIF districts, especially for arenas, have come under increased scrutiny as the Yum! Center Arena district in Louisville is losing money, not generating what was projected (see here, here, here). It will be fascinating to see how the Rupp folks plan to accommodate for more realistic TIF projections.

As the Courier reported:

The taxing district “will become self-sufficient again when the economy recovers, but this is way too much risk for Louisville to have taken from the beginning,” said John Vrooman, a sports economist at Vanderbilt University. “This volatility should have been anticipated before the debt was issued.”

He said in an email that tax-increment financing is “very risky” for financing sports arenas and should not exceed 10 percent of the total debt. The tax plan makes up 35 percent of the KFC Yum! Center’s annual debt.

Also… it’s worth noting that the timeline proposed in this plan, which they admit is a best case, predicts a completed Rupp by 2017, while the University of Kentucky’s lease with the Lexington Center, re-upped in 2001, runs through the 2017-8 season. It’s unlikely UK would try to move at this point (but who knows what lurks in the hearts of the UK powerclass), but the projected timeline may not be purely coincidental.