What UK, Lexington want: Sweet suites and Jim Host

| February 11, 2011

Any Kentuckian who didn’t just get off the turnip truck can tell you what’s,  going to happen long before it does – if it involves Louisville, Lexington, University of Louisville and University of Kentucky.

For instance:

U of L renovated and added seats to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

U of L has what has to be the finest, most fabulous place to play basketball in all the world, KFC Yum! Center.

U of L’s football stadium still doesn’t seat as many as UK’s Commonwealth Stadium, but Papa John’s has oodles of suites, which are big money-makers for U of L. UK has just a few suites, but lusts for many more.

KFC Yum! Center has 71 suites, four party suites, 62 loge boxes and well – you get the idea. Rupp Arena has none.

I told you that it wouldn’t be long before UK started screaming for:

1.Renovation and many more suites for Commonwealth Stadium.

2. A new, or at least a vast renovation of Rupp Arena with more suites than U of L has.

Mayor wants Host

Lexington’s new mayor, Jim Gray, has appointed,  a task force to determine the feasibility of redesigning and renovating Rupp Arena and the Lexington Center. Note: The mayor made no mention of a new arena. Rupp Arena is owned by the City of Lexington.

I knew that it was about time for the other shoe to drop: Jim Host, a Lexington businessman who was chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority that built the Yum! Center, was asked about his availability to be the chairman of the Lexington project. He declined, to no one’s surprise.

Host pointed out that he is 73 and worked just about full time for six years on the Louisville project, but said that he would be willing to be an adviser.

Personal note: Anyone who knows Jim Host, who is a real go-getter, knows he won’t be able to keep his expertise to himself. He’ll be busy. And he will be involved. He will end up running the show because there’s no one else to do the job that he has proved that he can do.

It had to be grating to Lexington and UK boosters because Host was a Wildcat baseball pitcher and was heavily involved with the university’s athletics with his company.

A.D. said WHAT!

Enter Mitch Barnhart, the UK director of athletics. He said that he was tired of being on the back seat of UK actions.

Now that had to be the biggest bunch of you-know-what. Doesn’t he know that UK faculty members haven’t had raises in two years, that there are leaky roofs in classroom buildings, more students each year can’t afford the costs, etc.

But Barnhart said that he wants a new president to give him what he wants for the athletics department.

Ring in nose

I just hope that the new president doesn’t allow Barnhart to remove the ring in the current president’s nose and install it in the new president’s honker.

Host is a straight shooter. He said that when the Lexington mayor asked him what he thought should be done with Rupp Arena, here is what Host told the mayor:

“My comment was “˜I don’t think there is any way you can duplicate the look of the arena in Louisville in Lexington on that (High Street) site because you don’t have the (Ohio) river, you don’t have the front door, you don’t have the plaza, you don’t have the whole area of Main Street like you have in Louisville,’” Host said.

“If it were me,” continued Host, “I’d make this (Rupp Arena) the Wrigley Field of college basketball. I’d make this the Fenway Park of college basketball. Because already (Rupp Arena) has a certain mystique about it nationwide of “˜My gosh, I’m going to play in Rupp Arena.’ ”

Add Cawood’s name

Personal note to Host about a close personal friend of both of us: Please make sure that Cawood Ledford’s name is added prominently out on the floor on both sides so that it can be seen, or in both end zones. In LARGE letters.

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Category: Sports

About the Author (Author Profile)

Earl Cox, Sports Columnist

Earl doesn¹t just write about sports legends, he counts many of them as his
friends. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, he has been writing
about sports for 60 years. Incidentally, that¹s about how long it’s been
since he¹s cleaned his desk but he knows where everything is.

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