Funding for Lodge Project Approved

Oct. 27, 2009

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- University of Kentucky Athletics has received the largest private gift in its history, a $7 million pledge to construct the school's new Wildcat Lodge. The Difference Makers, a group of UK supporters brought together by Mr. Joe Craft, have pledged up to $7 million to fund the project. The project was approved by the UK Board of Trustees on Tuesday and is pending approval from state organizations, Capital Oversight and the Council of Postsecondary Education.

As part of the pledge agreement, the new facility will be named Wildcat Coal Lodge as a tribute to the importance of the coal industry to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The new facility would house both men's basketball players as well as non-student-athletes. The Difference Makers' pledge includes up to $150,000 of annual proceeds from the Keightley Classic.

Joe Craft, an eastern Kentucky native who currently resides in Tulsa, Okla., made a $6 million pledge in the summer of 2006 towards the Joe Craft Center, UK's basketball practice facility.

A native of Hazard, Craft received both an undergraduate degree in accounting (1972) and a law degree (1976) from UK. He is president and chief executive officer of Alliance Resource Partners, L.P., a diversified coal producer and marketer.

“Three of Kentucky's legacies that sustain our Commonwealth and its people are the University of Kentucky, Kentucky basketball, and the vital Coal industry of Eastern and Western Kentucky,” Joe Craft said. “These entities have again come together and the result is a building and a project the entire Commonwealth will be proud of."

“We are extremely grateful to the Difference Makers,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “This major gift will allow us to add new and modernized student housing to benefit our current residence life needs.  Joe Craft has shown continued support to UK Athletics and is one of the many successful UK graduates who have contributed back to their alma mater.”

“Joe Craft and the Difference Makers are helping us set the gold standard for housing facilities in men's basketball across the nation,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “We will continue to honor Coach Joe B. Hall at the new lodge.  We will ensure that Coach Hall's contributions to our program and his innovative vision for student-athlete housing in 1978 will never be forgotten.”

The approximately 20,000-square foot housing facility would begin construction late summer of 2010 and is scheduled for completion late summer of 2011.