Kentucky Venues Seeks P3 Partner to Build Sports Venue

By Ed Green
P3 Kentucky Editor

A new sports entertainment complex could be coming to a 12-acre site near the state fairgrounds and Kentucky Kingdom, if the state is successful in finding a private partner to develop the property.

This week, Kentucky Venues – the operating name of the Kentucky State Fair Board – issued a request for proposals to build a sports entertainment complex near the Kentucky Exposition Center.  The complex is not related to recent discussions of building a new convention hotel at the exposition center, according to Chris Reece, executive director of the cabinet’s office of finance.

The organization is looking for proposals that would develop a premier sports entertainment complex, including a restaurant and meeting space, at the old armory property, on the east side of the expo center, bordered by I-65 and Crittenden Drive.

Kentucky Venues, which is an agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, operates both the expo center and the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville. Major events at the expo center include the Street Rod Nationals currently underway, the Kentucky State Fair, the World’s Championship Horse Show, National Farm Machinery Show and the North American Championship Rodeo.

Reece said the idea behind the P3 would be to solicit ideas for an amenity that complements but does not compete with other facilities at the state fairgrounds – a property that has 1.2 million square feet for meetings and conventions and includes Freedom Hall as well as Kentucky Kingdom.

The selection would be selected based on the financial terms of the proposal and the planned patron experience. Reece said the RFP was intentionally broad to allow private partners to bring creative and practical ideas that fit the conceptual outline.

“The idea is to at least put a little framework around it,” he said. “The idea is more recreational entertainment, maybe have some nightlife, not big event space that would be competing.”

The RFP also does not suggest a proposed budget for the P3 project but notes that Kentucky’s recently enacted P3 law states that any P3 capital project with an aggregate value of $25 million or more must be authorized by the Kentucky General Assembly.

“Therefore, if the aggregate value of this development exceeds $25 million, the project cannot proceed until General Assembly authorization is given,” the RFP states.

Reece said officials with the cabinet are excited about the project and seeing the various proposals that might be offered during the process, adding that cabinet officials view the new P3 law as a good way to bring financial resources and fresh ideas that benefit the state.

“It’s a win for everybody involved if you can provide more services for the Commonwealth.”

Officials with Kentucky Venues could not immediately be reached for comment.

For more details on this RFP, click here. Proposals are due Oct. 3, 2017.

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