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Renovating Rupp Arena seems like the way to go

Ms. Tyler Thompson touched on this in the News and Views but I want to make sure it doesn’t get overlooked. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, a new study by a feasibility team says that renovating Rupp would cost less than half of what the city would spend to build a new arena. The proposed renovation would include everything the university is looking for in its new facility.

From the Herald-Leader:

Renovation would cost between $110 million and $130 million, compared to $300 million to $325 million for a new arena, according to the technical study that looked at long-term needs for the downtown arena and adjacent Lexington Center.

Expanding the Lexington Center to add convention and exhibition space would cost $70 million, compared to $100 million to $130 million for a new convention center, according to the study.

The feasibility team, consisting of four internationally recognized arena design firms, met multiple times with the athletics department during the study. Rupp Arena task force leader Gary Bates will take the information and make his recommendation in January.

The university’s priorities for the new facility include:

— No loss of seating capacity. Renovation would allow a modest increase in the number of seats, more seats in the lower arena and upper-arena seats with backs, according to the study.

— Uninterrupted play while renovation is under way.

— Upgraded, and in some cases new, support spaces such as a media room, interview room, training room and kitchen. Plus, the option to move the women’s basketball team to Rupp, which would entail a new locker room.

— Some premium seating, including space for the UK president to entertain before and after games. Currently, President Eli Capilouto uses the Bluegrass Ballroom in the Lexington Center.

— New technology including a center-hung scoreboard –perhaps eight-sided – that would display the score, player stats, show instant replays of the game and have close-up shots of coaches and players.

— Retain the collegiate atmosphere of Rupp, as opposed to an arena that would be more appropriate for a professional team.

Bates and the Rupp Arena task force are hosting a public meeting at 6:00 pm tonight at the Lexington Children’s Theater to discuss the renovation. Bates will share his ideas and take suggestions from the crowd.

You’re invited.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

75 responses to “Renovating Rupp Arena seems like the way to go”

  1. ashland cat






  4. Big E

    Welcome to Half-ass, KY – (formerly Lexington, KY)

  5. Viren

    What about true STUDENT SECTION?

  6. r0yalewithcheez

    (i posted this in the show thread)

    i think they could make a new arena work with a a more creative approach….if you could allow people to invest in it rather than donate i think we could reach our goal. figure out an amount needed and figure out how you want to structure it and sell it from the standpoint of who ever invest is a lifetime vip part owner of rupp (or the new rupp)……..i dont know if you’d rather have 100 investors each making up 1% of the investment or 51% and the other 49% come from the state or vise versa the investors could make up 49% and the remaining 51% could be state and rupp management. what ever the break down is this is the best idea i’ve ever heard and unfortunately im the one who thought of it and my platform is small. right now with the economy and future uncertain finding people to invest 3-5mil might not be out of the question……they know UK basketball is popular and rupp is going to be packed every year so a certain size return can be counted on. it’s also a really elite vip sort of thing and that sort of competition leads to more people wanting to invest. i have no doubt we could find investors the challenge is finding fans of uk to invest rather than businesses and businessmen from outside of ky. truthfully looking at it any other way this day in age is naive….sure there might be some donors…but it’s much more appealing to offer a % of return or quarterly dividends than it is some good seats….its a long term investment that people could pass on to family and if they ever took a loss then they could write a portion of it off.
    but for example lets break down 250 mil (there are countless ways to structure this) 250 mil is 83% of 300mil. im sure if you found funding for 83% of the project that the remaining 17% could be found. most people dont know what a CAFP (comprehensive annual financial report) is but it shows you every town in america’s investments and how those investments fluctuate every qtr. basically every city in america makes investments in real estate, commodities, equities and bonds but it’s never talked about….they can make a 500% return but they are still going to act like taxes vs budget is all that counts. anyways though….if 51 people or groups of partners invested 4.9 mil that would equate to 250mil….there are a ton of ways to deal with that 51% and the remaining 49%. i like the idea of giving the investors the controlling interest and possibly dispersing the remaining 49% to rupp management/workers and even the city of lex or state of ky. im going to quit cause the purpose of this is to trigger discussion nothing is concrete or final in my head
    ps….i’d also like to point out another overlooked aspect. if we developed and built on manchestor street that would be the equivalent of owning penny stocks and having them spike over night….it is currently warehouses along traintracks aka undesireable and thus priced accordingly. if you built on that land then sold off the surrounding land to business that want to cater to the inherant traffic that would come with having rupp built there….you would double your real estate worth/gains easy. im telling you this is a good idea and even if it didnt work it should still get proposed cause expecting people to DONATE is pretty silly. executing this would be brilliant and it would be the standard for how sports towns/teams ought to operate.
    psss….can you imagine the kentucky effect being “come here and make it to the NBA and if you do so withing the next 2-4 years you can invest in rupp after you leave”???? talk about lafamilia and being part of kentucky for life! s

  7. Cat Head

    NEW ARENA!!!

    Lexington, get out of the way.

  8. Another Perspective

    So much for the panel going through the motions for political reasons so they can say they looked at everything before giving Cal what he wanted. Fare thee well, Gold Standard!

  9. Rod

    Do whatever is necessary to get all the dead gray hairs out of lower arena and fill it up with people who will actually move and get into the game.

  10. KevinK

    All the piggyback projects added is BS.

  11. Manbearpig

    Is a cemetery for the blue hairs included in this renovation?

  12. mitchispaidtoomuch

    I have to disagree with your statement that the university would be getting everything they wanted. I did not see it specifically stating that the renovated Rupp would have luxury suites, a major revenue producing item that UK and Mitch coveted.

  13. Rotten


  14. Andy Griffith

    Gee Wez, it sure is nice to know even the Greatest Program of All-time in college basketball, wants to think backwards for the future. :/

  15. believeblue

    Complete Crap!!!

  16. bigbluemist

    As long as they get some suites in there, renovating is the way to go. I am curious if chair backs for the upper arena will be like the chair backs at commonwealth-bench backs. I’m fine with either-they just need to give out some more details. Bench backs is the only way I know to not lose seats in the uppper.

  17. Cat Head

    A new Arena WITHOUT Luxury Boxes is waisted money.

    We NEED that revenue!

  18. echo 1

    Retain the collegiate atmosphere? That of the university’s conditions? When has Rupp had a collegiate atmosphere? On occasion, it has a good atmosphere, but never has it had a collegiate atmosphere.

  19. UKFanInCincy

    We need some “REAL FANS” at this meeting tonight. I live in Cincinnati so i can not attend. So who all is going and what questions are you going to ask??

  20. UKFanInCincy

    I think a students section all the way around the floor(If not all the way then 1/2 the way), but have it lower than the floor. So it is not blocking the blue hairs. This needs to happen. We need to have the oposing team scared to have to come play in Rupp again.

    This is just my .02

    What do you think?

  21. cpacat

    #7 – I like your thinking…out of the box. BTW, I am doing a CAFR right now.

  22. NKYCatsFan

    I don’t care how they do it, but actual seating in the upper area with a little more row space would be nice. I am not sure how that can be done in the existing structure.

  23. NKYCatsFan

    More sets of stairs too so the seats are more easily accessible. You are punished for being there early as you have to allow 20 people to get through.

  24. BuckCat

    If this mayor really wants to renovate the arena. Barnhart should start raising money and doing research to build an arena on campus. I think there is a enough support for Kentucky Basketball to raise money to build an Arena. This may scare the city into agreeing to build a new arena. I am not from Lexington, but I think it would severley damage the city move the arena out of downtown Lexington.

  25. BhamJ

    If we renovate, what is the life expectancy of the arena? Another decade? Surely, not another 20 years.

    Rupp opened in 1976, it is 35 years old. If you spend 100 million to give it another 10 years versus 300 million to get another 35 then renovation is the more expensive option per year.

    If you think it is difficult having a nice arena in Louisville, wait another decade and see what we are up against. I suspect you will have spent 100 million on a renovation and will find that you have fallen behind more teams in terms of playing facilities.

  26. billy

    season ticket buyers should hold priorty.

  27. StatGuy

    This is where we need BTI to crunch the numbers. I swear I think he’ll end up an accountant.

  28. BhamJ

    24. Barnhart can talk all he wants, but the city knows that UK is cash strapped because of the new hospital (which I am all for) and the athletic department cant borrow any money. So, the odds that Barnhart raises 300 million for a stadium are probably a long shot. Unless coal money comes through big with a sizeable (100 million) donation, I don’t see that scaring the city.

  29. CliffFrankLou

    All the comments about moving the bluehairs and giving the students more seats near the court are senseless. Anyone notice the number of empty student seats so far this year? Who do you think is paying Cal’s salary from the UKAA? Those damn old bluehairs, not the entitlement minded students. If you want better seats, write your check to the K-Fund and get priority. Put your money where your mouth is.

  30. Inside Your Mind

    If they can get the same or close to the same as building a new arena for half the cost, then i don’t see a problem with renovation. The only thing i disagree with is the “collegiate atmosphere.” Rupp has more of a NBA style atmosphere than anywhere in the country. Most times fans are quiet and sitting down. The student section would need to be moved in order to create a more collegiate atmosphere. If they do things right then renovation would work. I think some fans just want a new arena just to have something new. If you can renovate and get the same result as a new arena for half the cost then that’s the smarter thing to do. You can’t blame someone for being smart with their money.

  31. krmcats

    I would have to see the plan before I cast my vote. I am not an enginner, but I would think you could attach luxury boxes to the bottom of the upper level w/o messing with anyones sight lines.

  32. stevem

    For all those demanding a new stadium, show us how it would be paid for before telling us how everything else is insufficient. It’s not difficult to voice your support for a new arena, but we’re at a point where responsible people have to come up with the coin to make whatever is going to happen work. Where are you going to get $300 million in this economy? Many in Louisville are still saying YUM was a bad investment. Until you can provide some insight on that question your “desires” for a new facility don’t count for much.

  33. Keep Rupp

    For those complaining about a lack of suites, what exactly do you imagine “premium seating” to mean? Additionally, if it makes fiscal sense to renovate rather than build an entirely new arena, why bother with a new arena? Isn’t the fact that Louisville got a new arena despite having a venerable, history-laden gym just more reason they are who they are? It’s vastly different mind set: one of a commuter school rather than that of a historical powerhouse.

  34. Rupps_rhetoric

    Can we all agree we have no business discussing an arena plan until we can get our f&$@$&@? games in HD!!!! This is the real travesty were faced with right now!!

  35. DoubleZeroMostel

    Everyone talking about the Economy and where that money will come from is missing their own point. Where does the 130MM for renovation come from to begin with?

  36. JDubbs1983

    Rupp has never had a true collegiate atmosphere….some places to look at for a true collegiate “rowdy/passionate” atmopshere are places like Duke, UNC, Florida, Michigan State….hell even Kansas. What do all these areas have in common they have a huge student section close to the hardwood that surrounds the court. It itimidates the visiting team and helps add to the win column. We will never see this happen in Rupp because of all the rich old people that occupy the lower area. If they could give up the first three-four rows all around the area that would add a little excitement…or atlease fill up one side of the lower area with students instead up putting them under the goals.

  37. Joe

    Who is going to pay for this?

    I’ll answer, almost always it’s robbing via taxation those who aren’t enjoying the revenue. I could be wrong but does anybody know?

  38. DB11

    I do urge everyone that can make it to go this evening and display your displeasure with this decision.

  39. Old Guy in Lower Arena

    The people that want a new arena must have extra money laying around.

    Mostly, a renovation will be an excuse to raise ticket prices, perhaps dramatically. And forget about students; there’s no money to be made from them and just enough show up now to add some atmosphere. If the debate is atmosphere vs. $$, I think $$ wins every time.

  40. Entertainment committee

    Built it and they will come. The longer you wait the more it’ll cost.

  41. JDubbs1983

    If the students cant afford a damned $5 ticket to show up and support thier school like the other top programs do then the university should allow the unclaimed student section seats to be resold to “non-students” under a certain age group. IE under 30….this should clearly help add to the excitement and allow the spaces to be filled (UK and Rupp get their money) and you dont have 50-60 year old perverts occupy a seat next to 18-19 year old college girls.

  42. DB11

    #39 just signed his death warrant.
    -It has been made clear that money is not an issue.
    -To say f%^& you to the students is just an atrocity. No money to be made from them??? How about the $8,000 they pay in tuition a year. And don’t say sports don’t affect attendance at schools, it’s very obvious it does.

  43. JDubbs1983

    All i have to say is if freaking Ohio St students/fans could create that atmoshpere we saw last night….why cant this happen in Rupp? It sickened me to watch that game because they really did have an impact and at Rupp you might get that for one or two posessions and they all sit back down and shut up. Its almost like there is an “applause sign” hanging from the rafters and its turned on and off on and off.

  44. BBN

    Renovating Rupp Arena is a half ass approach that will not sit well with Calipari. Sadly, we are in this situation because the UK Board of Trustees blew the $500 million IMG deal that would have provided everything the athletic programs need. I suppose we shouldn’t expect the county hicks on the Board to have any vision.

  45. wizard

    I would like to see a ring all the way around the court 75 rows thick where there are no seats. you come and stand the whole game. sell season tickets to this sec. and have it first come “seating”. put the blue hairs up over this sec. where they can sit and not have to worry about the crazies standing in front of them.

  46. J

    One thing they need to look at is the space allocated for each “seat” in the bleachers. I went to my first game in upper level not in the student section and had two huge guys on either side of our seats, it was awful.

  47. LJ

    Universities are run as not-for-profit organizations and the students should be given seating priority. Put the students in the lower rows in around the court nearvtge court.

  48. Bluegrassrebel

    Not really related to this post – but Fox Sports NCAA BK has a poll going on of best basketball coach ever. Our man Adolph currently leads with 36% over Wooden at 28%. THE POWER OF BBN ROCKS!!!

  49. UKCATS8

    Someone please tell them to paint the air ducts blue!I never have understood having red air ducts in Rupp Arena

  50. stevem

    Where are the UK season ticket holders of the future going to come from if they aren’t allowed to watch games while they were students at UK?

  51. KellyBruce

    #TeamRenovate here

  52. Bluegrassrebel

    #49 Totally agree

  53. Phillip West

    Well first of all the mayor needs to stop making this a legacy thing and being political and do what UK wants…A 30,000 arena but i dont wanna see Rupp go but it needs to be done right. Im hearing too much about creeks and an ampitheater and no drawings or details of whats inside. If seats are put in and boxes that will DIMINSH THE CAPACITY…making the yum center bigger than Rupp Arena and that cant happen.Attract a Final Four with a new one and make current Rupp an a theater or whatever was discussed…Theres enough space to do so and put new arena across the street. A 30,000 seat arena with room for more,maybe use what Jerry Jones did for the Cowboys Stadium and have removable end zone that is taken out for big games to break attendance records and then put back in for other games. UK needs to set the bar and stop all this b.s. UK is #1 and shouldnt have to look up to no one. Do it right knuckleheads and get it right…

  54. Phillip West

    Alright knuckleheads i dont understand the concept of this. UK is suppose to be the gold standard and shouldnt look up to no one. A 30,000 seat arena is necessary for UK. Ill ive heard is creeks and an ampitheater and no designs. Im NOT buying that seats are going to be added and luxury boxes AND NO CAPACITY DIMINISHED….thats hog wash.U can add more seats anyway cause of the angle Rupp was built too…i know better than that people. Mayor Gray is trying to get the easy way out and put $150 million not used for an arena to be used elsewhere…how stupid…i dont want Rupp to go but you guys need to use your heads…How about a way to take out a removable end zone for big games so you can set an attendance record then put back for other games???(Like Jerry Jones Cowboys Stad but in bball) this would be at a new stadium but come on…get a life guys…MAKE IT RIGHT OR DONT DO IT…UK IS THE GOLD STANDARD… this shoulda been done 6 years ago when the TIF was available…ugh.

  55. Gap Tooth Danny

    #6, Cliff’s notes please

  56. Old Guy in Lower Arena

    #50 – you honestly think that’s an issue? #42 – money not an issue to whom?

    I was at UK and had friends that went to the ADs office and complained about the student section being moved. The AD just rubbed his fingers together in the classic “it’s about money” gesture. The $8k in tuition pales against the amount of money that gets donated to the K fund for those seats. If you think this isn’t about money, you are kidding yourself.

  57. Jason

    Renovating is just a horrible idea. I agree with every person that has stated this is a half-assed approach. Rupp is nowhere near as loud as it should be- there are too many bluehairs sitting where the students should be. It’s an old arena; there are better places to play basketball. This should not be allowed.

    Kentucky basketball deserves to have the Roman Coliseum of arenas. Anything less is a disservice to the university and the fans.

  58. Jake

    Kentucky needs a bigger student section in the lower arena so we can gain the collegiate atmosphere that we’ve always wanted.. Sticking the students in the upper arena is not the answer

  59. Jake

    Students deserve better seats not the upper arena

  60. Viren

    I would be fine with renovating RUPP ARENA or building a new one as long as it include A TRUE STUDENT SECTION. If they can not add student section then STOP wasting money. It is almost sad to watch some games where lower arena @sses sit on their tail. I have no problem with them sitting down just move them up to rafter or suite box and let true fans enjoy the game. We are the most passionate fans and why can we not have atmosphere at the games like the ones at Cameron Indoor or O’Connell Center.

  61. Big E

    It would be nice if they would build an arena with better seating for tall people. Even lower arena seating sucks for us over 6’0″.

  62. Dark Helmet

    I’m not for the loss of seats but they need to add luxury boxes somehow and make some money. Most of the renovations for Convention Space? Give me a break – all that money would just go to the Hyatt (unless that really means more common areas for the game or something). Don’t get me wrong I like the Mayor but COme ON MAn! This looks hilariously uncreative and elementary and that surprises me because Jim’s such a creative person himself. He should take this personal and put some energy into it.

  63. Lol

    This group consist of very smart, passionate people who will give us something to be proud of. Great country, great state and a great town!

  64. JDubbs1983

    Ive got an idea……build a giant sardin tin can and pack half the crowd we usually have in it and you have the best scenerio for accoustics…..right Duke? I guess we could be so stuck up are own arses that we actually think with a place like that we have the best arena in college basketball. If they do just renovate Rupp 90% of all other college venues will still fall way under in comparison to the size and quality. The Yuck Center is one of the better if not best around now but the quality of basketball played in there (besides when UK comes to town) still sucks. You can have the shinniest of packages but if the material or product inside that container isnt any good it still doesn’t sell. UK basketball will never go out of style and will always appeal to the masses. We will be fine no matter of a renovation or a completly new facility.

  65. Tom

    #25 – You’re a complete moron:

    “If we renovate, what is the life expectancy of the arena? Another decade? Surely, not another 20 years.”

    You have no clue what you are talking about. The comments here are full of idiots talking out their asses, but your post was laughable.


  66. KYBLUE

    I think the YUM is sponsored by every major company in Kentucky… it is amazing to see all the advertising in that arena.

  67. The Big Dog

    This will doom us to second-rate status for the next forty years. If UK buys into this scheme, they deserve it.

  68. James

    No way can Rupp be renovated without interrupting an entire season of basketball, so it’s all a moot point.

  69. James

    Laughable comments on the blue hairs, who are the ones who pay all the bills.

  70. James

    Students need more room? Another laugher…they are AWOL as it is unless it’s a high profile televised game.

  71. Llabtoofkuetahi

    Didnt rupp get renovated a few yeara ago

    It will need to be replaced sometime meaning cheaper now than in tenn yrs

    Lack of forsight
    Lex gov is a joke
    Now i would make a football joke but the iron curten been dropped

  72. UKGrad04

    This is crap. What the esteemed council has failed to measure is the excitement a new arena brings versus the bleh the renovation will generate. Of course, I understand money is money, but what does the LFCG think Lexington is without Kentucky basketball? Instead of sucking it dry and leaving the corpse for hyenas, perhaps they should consider feeding the cash cow (i.e. the identity of the city). The second Kentucky Basketball is viewed as a burden to the city in anyway is the second the voters need to reevaluate the city’s leadership.

  73. El Dude

    I’m laughing that the chief concern seems to be that the students have more seats when they don’t use what they have. Yep, we’re gonna spend $150 million or so to accomodate more students and give them prime seating? Please tell me you are joking.

  74. El Dude

    #72 – I don’t think UK basketball is a cash cow for the city of Lexington. Heck, most of the nonconference schedule doesn’t even sell out.

  75. Dan

    I have a few questions….first how can/could Rupp Arena be considered a college atmosphere? Yeah Kentucky plays there that’s about it. That’s the only thing about the place that’s even remotely college….my point is check out Cameron Indoor Stadium or even Kansas’ arena and notice the differences….both places the kids are front and center. Not that I’m for UK copying anything from either of those two, and especially UL but Rupp isn’t about the college experience it’s about Lexington getting their hands in the cookie jar and profiting from Kentucky basketball….

    Second can anyone tell me what the benefit of adding luxury boxes/seats to any arena, Rupp or otherwise, constructed in Lexington is? How does that benefit UK? I thought the city got the majority (if not all) of the gate. And the University got a portion of the food sales and UK gear sold during games.

    Bottom line the city of Lexington has been lining its pockets since 1976 off the University of Kentucky. Why is this allowed? Why does the University administrations continue to allow this? Build the damn thing on campus or not at all and be done with the city. Let them go do what most cities do instead of sucking the blood from UK.