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Lexington Center and UK Exploring Private Financing Model for Athletics Facilities

Aug 21, 2008

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Board of the Lexington Center Corporation, with endorsement of the University of Kentucky, has authorized IMG College, a division of IMG Worldwide, and its affiliated company, International Stadia Group (ISG), to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the combined IMG/ISG entities can provide private financing for the design, construction and operation of three new or expanded athletics facilities in Lexington.

The study will explore providing private financing for a new downtown arena to replace the renowned 32-year-old Rupp Arena for Kentucky Wildcats basketball games, concerts, and other events.

In addition, the study will determine the opportunities for funding major renovations to Commonwealth Stadium, home to Kentucky's football team, and for construction of a new on-campus baseball stadium.

IMG College, the leader in collegiate licensing and sponsorship, and ISG, a consortium of the world's best research, sales and marketing personnel, have joined to create a new equation for success in "purpose built" venues. The University of Kentucky will be the first NCAA client of this joint venture.

The financing, if justified by the study, will be provided by an innovative, private financing opportunity. The plan allows clients to no longer be constrained by public funding and donor contributions, as the cost of new athletic venues has increased dramatically over the last five years. With their customized research methodologies, and access to private capital, IMG and ISG will work to secure adequate funding. ISG will create unique research models for each client designed to maximize both consumer impact and commercial revenue potential, which is then translated into a direct design model by stadium architects. IMG will then contribute the sales and marketing expertise to maximize those revenues generated by each venue.

"When our marketing partner, IMG presented us with the concept of possibly funding these facilities, we felt it was an incredible opportunity for us to provide championship facilities for our sports teams without requiring public funding," said Dr. Lee Todd. "If their study finds these projects can be supported through marketing and multimedia programs, then UK and the City of Lexington will benefit greatly from these new and expanded facilities."

"We are delighted the partnership with UK and downtown Lexington was important enough for the University to want to include the city in these discussions," said Mayor Jim Newberry. "We are hopeful and optimistic the feasibility study will render positive results and these facilities can be built to serve all Kentuckians, while also providing the best in class advantages for UK athletics."

"Lexington Center is pleased to be able to take a leadership role in this exploration process," said Luther Deaton. "If the results from the study reflect the passion for sports and entertainment fans have for UK athletics and major concerts and events, these new facilities can become a reality years ahead of the original schedule and without placing any financial burden on the citizens of Kentucky."

Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said, "When IMG/ISG approached us, we talked about doing the on campus facilities immediately and waiting on the planned new arena which was being projected for sometime after 2014. We then thought about the power of putting all these facilities into one financing package and then bundling all the marketing and premium seating assets into one strong sales and marketing approach and began to get very excited about the possibilities."

Barnhart said ISG and its chosen architectural partner, HKS, current author of both the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys new NFL stadiums, will work with the city, Lexington Center and UK on the design of these facilities. While the new arena will be the largest of the projects, Barnhart said the planned new suites, club seats and other improvements at Commonwealth Stadium and the new baseball stadium are equally important to UK's future athletics success. "This could be a huge development for UK Athletics and its fans," he added.

"This IMG/ISG partnership provides us with an unusual opportunity to expand our relationships with our universities and give them incredible competitive advantages through the funding of these facilities," said Tom Stultz, Senior Vice President & Managing Director of IMG College, UK's multi-media rights partner. "We are delighted the University of Kentucky, the City of Lexington, and the Lexington Center Corporation board have agreed to explore these opportunities with us. We believe this is the first of many such projects IMG and ISG will be doing together."

"ISG's research phase is expected to take less than six months," said Steve Moore, President of North and South America for ISG. "At the end of that period, we will make specific recommendations to the City, Lexington Center and the University about how to best use our model to fund and construct these new and expanded facilities. It is a unique approach because it first looks at the marketing and branding components of facilities and searches for ways to maximize revenues and thus, provide the keys for paying for the facilities. The process will include ample opportunities for public input on the project."

If the combined projects move forward, IMG/ISG will manage the marketing and other rights for these facilities but Lexington Center and the University of Kentucky are expected to retain operational management.

Moore said this is the first time IMG and ISG have explored the private financing model in the U.S. However, IMG was instrumental in developing the marketing and financing model that ultimately produced Wembley Stadium, and ISG is currently developing stadiums in Brazil and India with private funding he added.

IMG College, formerly Host Communications, Inc., has been a media rights holder at UK since 1974. In 2004, the company signed a 10-year $80 million deal for these rights in partnership with Lexington TV station, WKYT-TV.

About IMG College
IMG College is the leader in developing integrated licensing, marketing, and multi-media opportunities for the nation's top collegiate brands across local, regional, and national platforms. IMG College partners include the NCAA and its 88 championships, NCAA Football, leading conferences, and some of the most prestigious universities in the country.

Since IMG Worldwide began its focus on the college market in 2007, IMG College and its sister division, The Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), have secured new and expanded rights with several major collegiate institutions. IMG College formed an alliance with CBS to represent the NCAA's sponsorship rights that recently yielded a corporate partnership deal with Hershey's. Additionally, IMG College has acquired new partnerships, or secured expanded multimedia rights partnerships, with the University of Michigan, the University of Oregon, the University of Nebraska, Gonzaga University, the Ohio Valley Conference, and printing rights for The Ohio State University. On the collegiate licensing side, CLC has added relationships with two Big East clients, Rutgers University and West Virginia University, along with long-term contract renewals with many other key partners.

IMG College is a division of global sports and entertainment company IMG. For more information, please visit