KFC Yum! Center

The KFC Yum! Center, December 2019.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Scott C. Cox, an attorney who guided the KFC Yum! Center through a pivotal refinancing, has left the Louisville Arena Authority.

Cox, who was appointed in 2016 by former Gov. Matt Bevin, had continued to serve as the board chairman even after his term expired in January.

Gov. Andy Beshear replaced Cox with Andrew Owen and named board member Leslie Geoghegan as chairwoman.

Cox presided over the 2017 refinancing of the Yum! Center’s construction debt, one of Bevin’s priorities. That move resulted in a more manageable series of debt payments.

The nonprofit arena authority -- a public agency appointed by Louisville's mayor and Kentucky's governor -- relies on a Metro government payment, state sales tax revenue and a contribution from the University of Louisville to cover debt. 

All of those entities reworked agreements, contracts and other commitments before the authority refinanced debt and re-issued $377.8 million in new bonds.

Among the key victories was convincing U of L to amend its lease and pay up to $2.42 million more annually to the arena authority for using the building.

"All three of those things were challenges, and ultimately all of our partners -- the state, the city and the university -- madre their minds up that they wanted us to succeed," Cox said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to put new stress on the arena board’s ability to cover debt, however.

Arena officials said last month they are confident in their ability to make the payments this year, although it’s not known how future years will fare. 

In March, S&P Global Ratings added the arena to a list of projects under scrutiny, joining Major League Baseball’s Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in New York. It noted the Louisville arena’s reliance on tax increment financing, or TIF, which diverts a portion of tax revenues downtown for the building’s debt.

The Kentucky International Convention Center is among the biggest contributors to the arena’s TIF district. It's been closed during the pandemic. 

S&P warned in a March report that “fallout from the coronavirus, including an economic recession, could also materially lower TIF sale tax revenues, which are volatile and together with TIF property tax revenues account for more than a third of total revenues.”

Cox said that while no one could have predicted a pandemic, "I genuinely believe we will be fine.”

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