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Lexington Center Breaks Ground on New Convention Center

Posted at 2:18 PM, Jul 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-13 17:15:27-04

LEXINGTON, Ky (LEX 18) -The Lexington Center broke ground Thursday on the $241 million replacement and expansion of the Lexington Convention Center.

The project is described as the single largest capital public improvement project in Lexington’s history, and it is expected to elevate Lexington’s convention facilities.

“Today marks a milestone in what will be a transformative moment in the future of the Lexington community,” said Craig Turner, Chairman of the Board of Directors-Lexington Center.  “With the support of Governor Bevin, the General Assembly, and Lexington City leaders, we are taking another step in sustaining the vitality of our city’s downtown, creating a catalyst for great economic growth and new opportunities for business, entertainment and culture.”

Joining members of the Lexington Center Board of Directors at the groundbreaking celebration Thursday were Finance and Administration Secretary Col. William Landrum, Mayor Jim Gray, City Councilmembers, UK Finance and Administration Executive Vice President, Dr. Eric Monday and other state legislators, City representatives and University of Kentucky officials and dignitaries.

While the need to expand and update the convention center had been in discussion for many years, the project fulfills one of Mayor Jim Gray’s original initiatives to reinvigorate the city’s core, reinvent Rupp Arena, incorporate Town Branch Commons into the plan and upgrade the convention facility and the arena to “world class” standards. 

“With vision, hard work, persistence and determination, dreams can come true,” Gray said. “Today is evidence of it. We’re delivering on our promises.”

The convention center is the largest economic development project in the state. “This will create jobs now and into the future. Jobs that will help us grow our quality of life,” Gray said.

Combined with construction of Town Branch Commons beginning next month on Midland, the work that is currently going on at the new multi-use City Centre project, the continuing reinvention of the Distillery District, and work underway on a downtown movie complex near Rupp, hundreds of millions of investment in downtown Lexington will be completed over the next 3 years.

According to Bill Owen, CEO and President of Lexington Center, “The current facility has served us well for the past 42 years, but the need for more exhibit space has been in discussion since 1994 and recommended by 3 different studies dating back to 1986.  This project, when completed, really elevates Lexington as a convention destination to a whole new level.”

The new facility is projected to increase the annual economic impact of the center by $58 million, and will help Lexington remain competitive and attract more convention business that represents a significant portion of the state’s tourism business.

“We’re thrilled with this new facility,” said Mary Quinn Ramer, President of VisitLex. “The new convention center will allow us to pursue 90% of national meeting business, making us more competitive.” Expenditures on tourism in Lexington contribute about $2.1 billion each year to the local economy. 

The new expanded Lexington Convention Center designed by NBBJ Architects of Los Angeles, CA and EOP Architects, will offer 100,841 sq ft of exhibition space, 25,080 sq ft of ballroom space, 26,756 sq ft of meeting spaces, 57,615 sq. ft of hospitality space and will comprise more than 200,000 square feet when completed.

The project is designed to better connect Rupp Arena and the Convention Center to downtown. The parks and plazas that weave through it will provide new public gathering spots. They include the “Cat Walk,” an exterior stair and gathering spot outside of Rupp Arena; a new outdoor space at the Convention Center called the “Gorge” that also provides outdoor exhibit space; interactive water features; an extension of the Town Branch Trail; and, in the future, the planned Town Branch Park.

The convention center and Rupp Arena will remain open throughout the 42-month construction period while the project is carried out in phases.  The projected is scheduled for completion in November of 2021.