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A New Path Forward: UK Proposes to Self-fund Transformation of Campus

by Jay Blanton

video by UK Public Relations and Marketing.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto Thursday praised the partnership of Gov. Steve Beshear and legislative leaders who are strongly supporting UK's self-financing of a dramatic $275 million transformation of the campus.

"We are here this morning because of your leadership and your willingness to partner with us, as educational institutions, united to provide Kentucky with the best education, research and service," Capilouto said at a Frankfort news conference with the governor and legislative leaders who are supporting UK's proposal. "In offering your support for us to self-finance facilities that will help dramatically improve and transform our campuses, you are voicing your faith in Kentucky's future as well.

As a university, we must create affordable access to a 21st century education for more students. This initiative speaks directly to those concerns and those needs. We will help fund and shape our own destiny in a way that helps the state preserve its capacity for growth."

Beshear and legislative leaders announced their support for all higher education projects that will be self-financed during a news conference Thursday in Frankfort. UK's three projects represent the largest share of proposed projects. The legislature, which started its session this week, must still approve the projects, which also require formal approval by the UK Board of Trustees. The legislative session lasts until March.

Specifically, the plan calls for UK to completely fund ― through a combination of private funding, internal sources and a unique plan to utilize athletics funding of academics ― three transformative projects:

  • A $65 million renovation and expansion of the Gatton College of Business and Economics.The expansion will allow for enrollment growth of more than 50 percent and faculty/staff growth to handle the additional students. Already, UK has commitments of several million dollars in private fundraising thus far to pay for the project.

"The new facility will enable the outstanding Gatton College to make our programs competitive with the very best in the country. With smart growth in the number of faculty, the leverage from state-of-the-art classrooms and online learning technology and more efficiently configured and utilized classrooms, we can more effectively compete with the many business schools that have recently completed new facilities," said Gatton Dean David Blackwell. "The new Gatton College will allow us to grow our enrollment with a new high-quality, diverse student body, thereby self-funding our advancement to the next level of excellence. The citizens of the Commonwealth deserve the best in business education, and the new facility will help us meet the growing demand for well-trained business leaders and support new business formation."

  • Athletics will fund the lion's share of ― along with private donations and other university funds ― a $100 million, 263,000 square foot Academic Science Building, where the Donovan Residence Hall currently sits.

"We will do something very few universities in this country have done ― utilize the incredible brand that is our athletics program to help fund their needed facilities improvements and also one of our most important academic facilities," Capilouto said. "Our current science building is the second most utilized classroom space on campus. It is outdated and contains neither the classroom nor research space we need. This will change that."

  • A $110 million renovation of Nutter Football Training Facility and Commonwealth Stadium, to be paid for entirely by Athletics with the revenues generated by the construction of new luxury suites for which there already is a waiting list and club seating as well as other Athletics revenue. Additional improvements will include upgraded concessions and restrooms and a multi-purpose recruiting room.

"This important measure is possible because of the leadership of our athletics director, Mitch Barnhart, and his commitment to running a highly successful program that is financially self-sustaining, that gives back to the institution, and that always places integrity first," Capilouto said.

Additional information about each project can be found on the website  For updates on these projects, information will also be available on Facebook at and on Twitter, @BBNunited.

"We have demonstrated our capacity to think and act in innovative ways that create jobs and improve learning," Capilouto said. "This initiative represents one more step in that direction, in becoming full partners with the state in creating our own destiny and charting our own path forward in a way that helps the Commonwealth financially."