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Wildcat Coal Lodge is OK for a name, UK officials say


University of Kentucky officials have approved the name of a new residence hall for the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team.

It will be called Wildcat Coal Lodge.

The Lexington Herald- Leader reports the vote brought shouts from some who attended the trustees meeting Tuesday to protest “coal” being part of the dorm’s name.

Donors put up $7 million for the new residence on the condition that it contain “coal” as its middle name.

The new residence would replace Joe B. Hall Wildcat Lodge, which opened in 1978.

University of Kentucky Athletics said Tuesday the $7 million donation is the largest private gift in its history. The Difference Makers, a group of UK supporters brought together by Joe Craft, have pledged the money to fund the project. The project now 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.

Craft, an eastern Kentucky native who currently lives 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,” 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.

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