State seeks partner for entertainment complex at the expo center

This map shows where Crittenden Drive and Interstate 65 meet near the Kentucky Exposition Center property. | Courtesy of Google maps

The state is seeking potential private partners to build “a sports entertainment complex” at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet is asking developers to submit proposals for a project that would sit on about 12 acres of land bordered by Interstate 65 and Crittenden Drive, which is generally considered the back side of the expo center.

The property is owned by the state and run by Kentucky Venues.

“Sports entertainment center must be of high quality, compatible with an iconic, state of the art sports and entertainment center. The vision is to create a development that will provide a premier sports complex with meeting space, a restaurant and lounge,” the request for proposals states.

Proposals are due by 3 p.m. Oct. 3, and the project would need approval from the Kentucky General Assembly if the cost estimate is $25 million or more because it would be structured as a public-private partnership, or P3, deal.

P3 legislation, which passed in 2016, allows state and local governments to team up with private entities to help fund and/or construct infrastructure projects on publicly owned land. It gives government another funding avenue beside federal money or tax revenue.

Chris Reece, executive director of the cabinet’s office of finance, told P3 Kentucky, a website run by local public relations firm C2 Strategic, that the request for proposals was intentionally vague in order to bring in a wide variety of ideas and that the state is seeking a project that complements the existing event and meeting space at the expo center.

“The idea is more recreational entertainment, maybe have some nightlife, not big event space that would be competing,” he said.

Kentucky Venues did not provide any more specifics about what the request for proposals means when it said a sports entertainment complex.

The goal is to provide “additional entertainment and dining options for our business attendees and guests,” Kentucky Venues said in a statement to Insider Louisville.

Currently, people who come to Louisville for conventions and other events must travel leave the fairgrounds for entertainment.

Insider reached out the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet for additional comment but did not hear back.