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Lexington Center Expansion Dedicated

Lexington leaders along with Kentucky elected officials today celebrated the dedication of the $310 million Central Bank Center Expansion project.

Major upgrades to Rupp Arena were teased in October 2019 with the unveiling of new seats and new concession offerings.

In January 2020, naming and re-branding rights were announced.

Today’s dedication follows two years after a 2020 beam-topping ceremony when crews placed the final structural steel beam atop the new exhibit hall space. Per construction tradition, the 15-foot beam was adorned with stakeholders’ signatures, an American flag and a live evergreen tree—signifying good luck and prosperity—in celebration of the completion of the structure’s skeleton. Lexington Center Corporation Board President Bob Elliston said at the time “Quite simply, this project is, by far, the most important and single largest public investment the city of Lexington has undertaken in almost 50 years.”

Completion of the expansion project comes after over 10 years of planning and construction. The project includes a 100,000 plus square-foot exhibit hall space, a 25,000 square-foot multi-purpose ballroom, 16 meeting rooms, and over 50,000 square feet of hospitality dining areas. Renovations to historic Rupp Arena include conversion of most of the bench seating in the upper tier to chair back seating and enlarged concourses. A new iconic architectural facade replaces the “big box” look of the original 1976 building.

Elliston said at today’s dedication “We celebrate an investment in tourism, an investment in economic development, an investment in Lexington, an investment in Kentucky,” adding, “The expanded Central Bank Center facility will sustain, even elevate, Central Kentucky as a meeting destination, keeping Lexington competitive in the regional and national convention marketplace as well as create an iconic visitor destination in the heart of the Bluegrass. Renovations to Rupp Arena sustain its relevance as a first-class sports and entertainment venue and stretch its life far beyond that of most facilities of its kind.”

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said, “We have been working to expand Central Bank Center for many years to make it more competitive. This expansion comes with a reinvention of Rupp Arena and a beautiful new trail that runs in front of the Center and through downtown. It took local government, the University of Kentucky, and state and national support to make this project happen. Today’s a day to celebrate!”

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear added, ““Kentucky’s economy is soaring and the Central Bank Center expansion will add to our
momentum in Lexington and central Kentucky.”

Congressman Andy Barr said, “Rupp Arena, the Lexington Convention Center, and the Lexington Opera House are hallmark buildings that define downtown Lexington and draw people from across the nation to the heart of the Commonwealth. This expansion will not only ensure the longevity of these storied buildings but also support economic growth across the Central Kentucky region.”

“This project is critical to the future of tourism in our community and an important economic development project,” said Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX.

Today’s celebration also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Lexington Center Corporation, the governing body that oversees the management and operations for Rupp Arena, the Lexington Convention Center and the Lexington Opera House.

This article also appears on page 6 of the Lexington Business News section of the May 2022 print edition of Ace.