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It took more than a decade, but Lexington leaders say the reimagined Rupp and convention center were worth it. Take a look inside.

After 12 years and $310 million in investment, the ribbon was finally cut on Lexington's new expanded Central Bank Center and retooled Rupp Arena Thursday.

"We got it done. We got it done right," former Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced, with a glass raised. "For all of Lexington and all of Kentucky, hear, hear. Cheers, everybody."

With champagne glasses clinking against the soaring, airy backdrop of the Central Bank Center lobby, which juts out over the heart of downtown, city and state leaders toasted to the completion of the project.

Asked about the long-term commitment and hefty price tag, the early cheerleader for the effort, Gray, echoed that famous line from Field of Dreams.

"I believe that if you build it for your own people first, then others will come. And that's what this project represents."
Former Lexington Mayor Jim Gray

Not to mention a belief that, even amid a pandemic, the expansion of a major gathering place and beloved sports and event venue is a bet that will pay off down the road.

Among the new amenities: 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 25,000 square foot ballroom, and new hospitality dining areas. Plus a facade and interior, all created by architecture and design firm NBBJ, that depart dramatically from the more traditional feel of past iterations.

"This place revs up the look of downtown, the feel of downtown" Mayor Linda Gorton said. "And don't forget when the Town Branch Commons Park comes onboard, that is a park that will sit right outside Rupp Arena and the convention center."

All in all, it's a transformation officials hope will generate $100 million in economic activity annually — and project a new, more modern image of Lexington and the state to visitors.

NOTE: The story was updated to include the name of the architecture firm responsible for the arena and convention center design.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.