University of Kentucky Gatton Student Center

Lexington, Kentucky
Big Cats, Big Changes

From feasibility studies that started in 2005 to the ribbon cutting in 2018, this is a story of a client who pushed the envelope—then pushed some more—and the thriving student experience that resulted from the vision.

How about a-day-in-the-life scenario? A senior walks across the bridge from Lexington into The Center. As she moves through the space, she spots a friend working out in the gym, grabs a bagel and latte on her way to buy a text book, and stops to chat with her lab partner on the stadium stairs. They agree to meet in the same spot later that evening to watch their friends’ dance recital in the building’s “Blue Box” theatre. Or maybe they’ll catch a movie in the state-of-the-art Dolby Surround cinema down the hall.

The stairs, modeled after a local nature preserve, include limestone and a giant wildcat statue that has become selfie central. She snaps a pic to text to mom and moves past the plaza and out into the campus.

“As both the heart and hearth of our campus, the new Gatton Student Center is a place where leaders will be developed, friendships forged, and partnerships brokered.”

Eli Capilouto, President, University of Kentucky

Major Pathways
The building is anchored by an extension of the axis connecting Lexington's downtown to the heart of UK's campus.
Built in 1924, the original Alumni Gym saw major renovations and upgrades.
In the main atrium, students can find breakout spaces overlooking the entrance of the student center.
Design Excellence


The original Alumni Gym, built in 1924, stands next to the first Student Center, built in 1938. To preserve the historically significant sites, we looked to connect the brick buildings and incorporate them into the larger Student Union.

But first, we had to address the lack of foundational supports under the Alumni Gym, which was built directly on the dirt. Underpinnings in place, we moved to revitalize the building into a state-of-the-art student organization and meeting space.

And the original home of Wildcats Athletics? It’s a hub of activity as early as 6 am. Not bad for a college crowd.

The University of Kentucky’s Gatton Student Center is the new heart of student life on the historic Lexington campus.

Project Team

Jeff Stebar
Leo Alvarez
Floyd Cline
Jared Serwer