Jurich still prefers an on-campus basketball arena for Louisville basketball

Would anyone be surprised if Tom Jurich has not already commissioned artistic renderings of a new basketball arena for Belknap Campus in case the University of Louisville agreement with KFC Yum! Center were to fall through.

The rendering would be of a first class, state-of-the-art arena, of course, with all the “wow factors” that Jurich insists on when considering any new facility. My guess is that the new campus arena includes approximately 19,200 seats and will fit comfortably on the 13.5-acre site previously occupied by the silos.

UofL already owns the land and an arena at that location would be much easier and affordable to construct than downtown. Plenty of room on the site, too, for a hotel and conference center, including all the parking spaces needed for all the new facilities. 

The site would be convenient for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, just minutes from the practice facilities and the dormitories. Great for the volleyball team, too, as well as for other indoor sports.

 Jurich is not in any rush to abandon the KFC Yum! Center where UofL men’s and women’s teams have competed since 2010. But he is tired of hearing some city officials blaming UofL for financial problems with the the arena.

He addressed the issue recently during a meeting of the Central Cardinal Club at the PNC Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

“We have exceeded by many, many steps everything the city has asked of us,” said Jurich. “We brought more events in there, we raised our prices, we’ve given them much more revenue than they could have dreamed, and we’re still the bad guys.”

The likelihood of UofL building an on-campus arena is probably pretty remote, unless the city were to somehow manage to attract an NBA franchise to the city. Some people have been talking about it for 40 years, with no NBA owners or general managers ever expressing serious interest in the city.

Jurich proved a decade ago that he was a “team player” by going along with the downtown arena, despite badly wanting the arena on campus in the first place. He went ahead despite his reservations and better judgement but was able to negotiate excellent terms for UofL. 

No one should doubt Tom Jurich will do everything he can to make the current arrangement with the KFC Yum! Center a long-term success. But they also should not doubt that Jurich firmly believes the best possible place for a basketball arena is on the University of Louisville campus.

Creative approach to KFC Yum! Center artwork

Ken Clark, of Dynogen Marketing, displays wall hanging of KFC Yum! Center.
Ken Clark, of Dynogen Marketing, displays a wall hanging of KFC Yum! Center. The art includes recessed area for the basketball court and tiered seating levels.

Any visit to the sprawling retail display area in the South Wing of the Kentucky State Fair is going to includes numerous exhibits for satellite TV, cell phone accessories, T-shirts, cooking utensils and the like, extending forever it seems.

A nice surprise discovering a creative approach to athletic fan merchandise at a booth manned by Ken Clark from Indianapolis. The display included craftsmanship for a variety of schools, including Notre Dame, Michigan, Indiana and the University of Louisville.

KFC Wall HangingNoteworthy was the wall hanging of the KFC Yum! Center, 19.5 inches high, 25.5 inches wide, and 3.5 inches deep. The wood art includes a recessed area of the court and the seating levels.

Continue reading “Creative approach to KFC Yum! Center artwork”

UofL icon without a name

Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge

Easily one of Louisville’s largest and most recognizable artistic presentations only five years after it was unveiled is the spectacular mural on the east wall of the lobby of the KFC Yum! Center, announcing the preeminence of University of Louisville athletics to the community.  The 80 x 140-foot piece doesn’t yet have a name and little no recognition has been accorded to the artists.

A little research indicates that the mural was designed by the Swope Design Center, a firm located between the August Moon restaurant and the Jim Porter Tavern on Lexington Road near the Highlands.  Ann Swope, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, is the principle designer,  and is considered one of the region’s top commercial interior designers. Her husband, Brad, is a University of Kentucky graduate, and responsible for business development at for the company.

Yes, if you’re wondering whether there’s a Sam Swope Autogroup connection. Brad previously held sales and management positions with that company. He’s also a former marine and currently holds the record time for riding a bicycle 400 miles across the state.

Ann graduated from UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, which was named the number one public design school in the world by I.D. The International Design Magazine.

They did the work under contract with HOK Sports, which did the architectural design for the KFC Yum! Center.

It’s a great piece of art that deserves a name.

Group wants new lease, no UofL members on arena board

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the University of Louisville may have its own downtown basketball arena. The alarmists are out again, with the scare messages about the KFC Yum! Center.

They want to change the composition of the Arena Authority to include business people without any connection to UofL, giving preference to those with experience in arena and stadium operations. They also want to remove the right of the university to have authority to approve leasing of the arena, an arrangement that enables UofL to block University of Kentucky “home” games at the arena.

"This is the very thing the university wanted to avoid by building an on-campus arena," said William A. Stone, a member of the UofL Board of Overseers. "The group has trivialized their own efforts with the silliness of their demands.

Equally curious, they want to use the force of the Kentucky Legislature to pressure a renegotiation of the lease “to a level of fairness allowing the arena sufficient revenues to, at least, pay its expenses and annual debt service by June 30, 2013.”

Denis Frankenberger, a former local business owner, held a press conference Thursday to announce what everybody already knows — that the arena is faced with the threat of defaulting on the construction bonds. He warns that Louisville and Kentucky taxpayers will be settled with the debt.

Frankenberger says that the Arena Authority loses $33,235 per UofL men’s basketball game and $87,624 for each women’s game in the facility. He concludes that the project will never pay for itself while the the University of Louisville continues to make millions of dollars annually.

The university, it should be remembered, originally wanted an on-campus facility before caving into political pressure. The arena would never have been constructed without UofL’s involvement. Negotiations led to some of the following advantages for UofL (there are many more):

  • 88% of revenues from the lease of 71 private suites.
  • Exclusive use and control of private suites at all times.
  • Two free suites for the President and Athletic Director.
  • Arena responsible for maintenance and janitorial services.
  • All proceeds from programs and program advertisements.
  • 50% of all payments from third party concessions, including the gift shop, and catering sales.
  • All revenues from side court VIP seating ($10,000 per season).
  • 10% of all permanent signage inside and outside the arena.
  • 100% of all license fees from TV, radio, motion picture or other recordings.
  • Share equally with arena all net revenues from NCAA events.
  • Scheduling priority and priority use of the arena.
  • Discounted prices for faculty, staff, students and Letterman’s Club.

Generous to be sure. More than likely, however, UofL would have enjoyed even more amenities and financial benefits with its own on-campus arena. The city accepted UofL’s terms because city officials were desperate for a downtown arena. Now with a different administration, it’s a different tune, at least from the group headed by Frankenberger.

Expecting any kind of consensus from the community leadership, the Kentucky General Assembly, and a successful renegotiation of leasing terms is wildly optimistic and unlikely to occur. Attorneys would still be filing legal briefs a couple of years from now.

“This is the very thing the university wanted to avoid by building an on-campus arena,” said William A. Stone, a member of the UofL Board of Overseers. “The group has trivialized their own efforts with the silliness of their demands.

“It is the responsibility of the city and state to meet their financial obligations by spending money on something that is concrete and productive, as opposed to all the feel-good projects in which they get involved, ” he added, noting such examples as Light Up Louisville and Operation Brightside.

Part of the lease agreement is that, in the case of a foreclosure, UofL as the primary tenant would have 90 days to give notice to the mortgage holder that it will purchase the property on the terms and price set forth in the offer.

“That would be a fascinating possibility to consider,” he concluded.