Lexington’s three mayoral candidates clashed Thursday morning over the city’s ambitious Rupp Arena redesign.
At the Lexington Forum debate, Mayor Jim Gray defended the $350 million dollar project as a forward-thinking mechanism for job creation.
"I know about business recruiting. I know about jobs recruiting. This is a model that fits for us. Will there be some short-term pain in order to get long-term gain? Of course there will. That's what good management is all about," he told the audience of about 100.
Taking a skeptical view of the project’s potential was independent challenger Danny Mayer.
"Even conservative economists now don't look at arena development as anything that generates value for a community. If anything, it replaces pockets of money from suburban areas or from other commercial districts that get moved or replaced or displaced into those convention center or arena district areas," he argued.
Candidate and former Lexington Police Chief Anthany Beatty advocated for a slower, more cautious approach to the effort. More community input is needed before the city commits, he said.
"I'm very concerned about the amount of time and energy we spend in developing this project, how much time and energy we spend talking about it, when there are many, many other priorities in our community we also need to equally spend time for and address," Beatty said.
Thursday marked the first face-to-face debate between the candidates. Voters will get another chance to assess the contenders at a forum on May 12.