Now here’s a story that deserves more attention. Kentucky is embarking on three major on-campus building projects, none of which involve funding from the state legislature.
- A $65 million renovation and expansion of the Gatton College of Business and Economics. The $65 million project will be initially funded with $25 million in gifts and $40 million in agency bonds, approved by the legislature.
- The $100 million construction of a Science and Academic Building. The 263,000 square foot building will be funded by agency bonds and is the result of a partnership with athletics unlike any other in the country. UK Athletics will fund 65 percent of the building’s debt service ― or, in total, about $65 million.
- A $110 million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium and the Nutter Training and Recruiting Center. The project ― which will add suites and club seating, while improving the fan experience throughout the stadium ― will be paid for by agency bonds and funded through the construction of suites. UK already has a waiting list for suites.
The first thing that stands out is an athletic department building announcement, particularly one from a major program, being included in an announcement of general university projects. Yes, all of the projects were approved on the same day but it is rare to see a university present such a united front with its athletic department. Keeping with that theme, the second bullet point contains an incredible nugget: the athletics department will fund over half of the cost of a campus building completely unrelated to athletics. In fact, all three projects will be funded by the university without the use of state funds. The project is being called BBNUnited. BBN, of course, stands for Big Blue Nation, the common nickname for Kentucky’s fan base. While many athletic departments donate money to their university (often to the general scholarship fund), very few make the sort of commitment that Kentucky has.
This is the sort of creative funding I expect to see more and more of as the era of dwindling state financial support for state universities gets into full swing. We’ll see plenty asked of a college athletic department, like funding a major stadium expansion with its own resources, and even more given. (“In addition to support of the new Science and Academic Building, UK Athletics contributes millions of dollars each year to academic scholarships and programming. In fact, in total, UK Athletics spends more than 25 percent of its revenues back on campus for university needs.”)
All of which leads me to ask Jim Delany another question: how many Division III athletic departments fund construction costs for a $100 million Science and Academic building these days?