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|UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart|
By LARRY VAUGHT
NASHVILLE — Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart says if everything goes as planned, UK should have a revamped Commonwealth Stadium at the start of the 2015 season if the Kentucky General Assembly approves $110 million in bonding for renovations of the UK football facilities.
The $110 million was part of a $300 million package for Kentucky that was endorsed by Gov. Steve Beshear and legislature leaders at a press conference in Frankfort Thursday.
Commonwealth Stadium improvements would include 16 to 20 private suites, 2,000 new club seats, a team store, improved concessions, restrooms and security, a full-service kitchen and press facilities.
There will also be a long-awaited multi-purpose recruiting room that former UK coach Rich Brooks wanted during his tenure.
“We’ve been talking to architects for a long time. We’ve known a lot of them. It’s the same folks who work across the country, so we know them all and most of them have done projects with them at other places, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what they think is possible and what is not possible,” said Barnhart here Thursday night before UK beat Vanderbilt 60-58.
“And you get into the hard questions, you know, about where do you want to put locker rooms and medical and dining room and training table and those kinds of things. If those things are going to be part of your package, where are you going to put all that? So we’ve got to work our way through all that. Coach (Mark) Stoops has obviously got to be a huge part of that conversation. He’s got to get off the recruiting trail and we’ve got to give him some organized thoughts to be able to attack that with.”
Stoops indicated when he took the UK job in December after Joker Phillips was fired after a 2-10 season that improvements were coming. However, Barnhart doesn’t think anything he shared with Stoops about possible renovations influenced him to come to UK.
“He wanted this job because he wanted to come to Kentucky. A lot of people said, ‘Was there any quid-pro-quos? Was there any, ‘If you don’t do this I’m not.’ No, it wasn’t anything like that. He was great,” Barnhart said. “He says, ‘Look, I’m going to come and we’re going to get this thing going and if we have some other things work with, that’s terrific.’ So I’m excited to be able to do that, and now we’ve got to go to work and put the rest of the packages together.”
“I’m glad. I’m happy for our program. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to really do some special things. I want it to be a special place for our fans, for our players and our coaches. We’ll see what dividends it brings in terms of wins and losses and hopefully celebrate some really cool things.”
Barnhart said some changes — training room upgrades, weight room improvement — will make it clear to players that UK wants to have a consistent winning program.
“We clearly want to do some things for our players and make sure they know this is about them, too,” Barnhart said.
Barnhart knows the bottom line will remain whether or not Kentucky can win.
“It helps you in recruiting,” he said. “It clearly sends the message that we’re going to be committed to football. A lot of schools have had success in college football that weren’t traditional powers. We can get there and we can do that.”
“We’ve always been committed to football. People view it differently. We’ve completed 10 projects in football in the last seven years in different ways and no one sees that. They just can’t see them because they’re places that people just don’t go. This will be something that everybody can see. We’ve always been committed to football and I’m absolutely comfortable going forward that this indicates how important football is to the University of Kentucky.”