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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: A Change of Opinion about Rupp Arena

Last year, I wrote a post saying that I felt after going to the Yum! Center that Kentucky would have to respond by building itself a new arena.  It is no secret, and has been confirmed by Mitch Barnhart, that Rupp is an out of date college basketball arena for an elite program.  But after thinking about it more, I have changed my opinion about Rupp and feel Kentucky should keep it, albeit with renovations.  A couple reasons why:

1. The Elite 6 programs hold long term arenas

-Out of the major, historical college basketball powers, Rupp Arena is actually the 2nd youngest arena, 10 years ahead of the Dean Dome.  And while a big portion of the UK “brand” is Rupp Arena, the history and tradition of the arena can sometimes be overblown.  Rupp Arena gets its reputation not from its history, but by its sheer size.  As the largest basketball arena, it matches the largest and most passionate college basketball fanbase.  But if you are constantly building new arenas every 30-40 years, as UK has done twice now, you don’t get the legendary status that Cameron and Phog Allen have received.  Certainly, we don’t need to try and mock what our rivals do, but even as nice as the Yum! Center is, it will take a couple decades for that arena to truly “represent” the UL basketball program.  Kentucky doesn’t have to do that.

Duke (Cameron Indoor): 71 years
Kansas (Phog Allen Fieldhouse): 56 years
UCLA (Pauley Pavilion): 46 years
Indiana (Assembly Hall): 39 years
Kentucky (Rupp Arena): 35 years
North Carolina (Dean Dome): 25 years

2. Luxury Boxes are not necessary for college basketball

-I get that college athletics have become a big business and its all about the money.  But this idea that corporate suites and luxury boxes is “where its at” is just not accurate.  First of all, look at those arenas above from the major 6 programs.  Not a single one has luxury boxes.  All those programs have turned out just fine.  And lets say it’s all about money.  Here are the most profitable college basketball programs from the 2009-10 season and whether those arenas had luxury boxes:

1. Louisville: YES
2. North Carolina: NO
3. Ohio State: YES
4. Arizona: NO
5. Illinois: NO
6. Wisconsin: NO
7. Syracuse: NO
8. Indiana: NO
9. Minnesota: NO
10. Arkansas: YES

7 out of the top 10 profitable college basketball programs don’t have luxury boxes.  Case closed.

3.  Rupp Arena is not totally unable to be improved

-This has been hammered home, but the seating at Rupp Arena is an issue.  The lower level fans can be a bit quiet, andthe students are slammed behind 1 basketball.  Once again, if you want a better arena, it doesn’t have to be a better building.  You can build a better ATMOSPHERE.  If a UK fan claims he will stop being a fan if you push him back 5-10 rows to allow student seating on the sides, then he really isn’t that good of a fan anyway.  Would it have an economic impact.  I don’t know, why don’t you ask Illinois, the 5thmost profitable basketball program, where the students go 75% around the sides?  How about new scoreboards, maybe one over the court instead of in the corners?  You can’t tell me RuppArena couldn’t sustain that.  Or at least get rid of those goofy looking speakers right in the middle of the arena.  How about some new, cushy seats?  Or removing the bleachers in the upper arena for some real seats?  I don’t know if that would decrease total capacity, but it would at least be worth considering.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

63 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: A Change of Opinion about Rupp Arena

  1. stevem
    9:13 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Now that the novelty of YUM arena has worn off, UK fans can get beyond the jealousy of not having a new stadium and realize it would be economic suicide to fund a new $300-400 million dollar facility. Rupp is a great arena and home to the greatest fanbase in all of basketball. Go ahead…spruce it up but don’t fall into the trap of thinking if we don’t have the latest and greates, it is not becoming of our program.

  2. rh3toric
    9:26 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I agree upgrades is all that needs to be done

  3. El Dude
    9:29 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    The upper benches are a joke. Replace the benches with seats, decrease the total amount of seating and raise the price a bit.

  4. rh3toric
    9:30 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Paint those orange heating & cooling ducts blue please ASAP, this has bugged the hell of of me.

  5. KevinKat78
    9:32 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I’ve never felt we (UK) needed to do anything except keep up Rupp. The poor, middle Class and Rich UK fans can all set together and share the game. No need for boxes. As long as Rupp out sells everyone else every year, Why is there a problem.

  6. cory
    9:34 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    What your analysis fails to address is marginal profitability from putting in luxury seats, changing seating arrangements, etc. To just pull a comparison from other profitable programs isn’t a good idea. The goal (from a profitability perspective) is future forcasting and innovation. I think your post has more of a “that is how other people have done it/do it, so it could work for us too”, which isn’t a good business analysis method.

  7. Sylvar
    9:34 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Your profitability argument is weak. That only looks a profit margin. One reason our margin in lower than it could be is that UK participates in many more sports than most schools. Those sports don’t make money. Margin doesn’t show that picture. Luxury boxes would be a great benefit to the university. Any “sprucing up” of Rupp will HAVE to include them.

  8. bluesince66
    9:36 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Build an on campus arena, so that UK gets all the money. Name it whatever you like, but with “The winningest tradition in the history of college basketball” above the door should be enough.

  9. claydwildcat
    9:40 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    It is amaizing the difference in our profit margin and Louisville. Hard to argue if we can make that much more money. I know that history is important. Lets face it, it takes money to win.

  10. RidgeRunner
    9:43 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Remodel Rupp – Keep the Legacy!

  11. Don
    9:47 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    A new center court display of large video screes on all 4 sides, along with a state of the art audio system.

    Large screens in the upper deck areas.

    Paint / Lighting

    Update locker rooms

  12. BigBlueBrock
    9:47 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Leave it to BTI to post yet ANOTHER terrible and totally uninformed opinion about replacing Rupp Arena.

  13. TreyDay
    9:47 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I agree with most of the upgrades you mentioned. The upper benches are horrible. They need to be actual seats which will for sure decrease capacity but let fans enjoy themselves more. A couple of minor changes like that and regular maintenance (painting, etc.) and we should be set for at least 15 more years, right?

    9:48 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    WOW we are 16th. I thought we would be higher. I wonder how it is calculated. Louisville makes 10M a year more profit than we do? I wonder how K-fund calculates in. I would think there is no way we are not higher.

  15. The Vig
    9:48 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Lower the price of the tickets, lower the price of the concessions, and win some national championships.

    Make the old people in the 101 coats pay to stand in the aisle.

  16. BlooBloodCat
    9:52 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    7) your reading skills are weak. the article cited talks about expenditures and profits for basketball alone. money lost or gained from other sports has nothing to do with the profit data from basketball alone.

  17. nuke99m
    9:54 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I’d like to know if alcohol sale figure into profit for arenas. I always thought that UL having liquor sales really helped their attendance.

  18. Anyone know?
    9:57 am June 13, 2011 Permalink


  19. BTI Fan
    10:00 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    BTI, for one of your future posts can you break down the numbers for some of the most profitable programs including Kentucky. Please show if available how much of that profit is actual donations versus generated revenue. I know schools put revenue in different buckets but I would love to see some digging into the numbers especially the cards since their motto is the most profitable bball program. Thanks

  20. Al's IndiCats
    10:02 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    This is nothing more than an opinion, where it does have his merits on them, I still think the student body needs to be closer to the court….PERIOD!!!!!! Being a blue hair (or Gray) what I constantly see when they scan the crowd quite a few have their arms folded like someone has pissed in the oatmeal that morning. I also understand that without their donations we wouldn’t be where we are today. Renovation, a MUST! Building a arena on campus, one would have to think of what would happen to the merchants that depend on the Rupp crowd if they decided to rebuild. And lets face it, Memorial just wouldn’t suffice, for it would just consist of the fine people who actually “DO” the donating with out the student body.
    Classic Rock, and hard place scenario.

  21. Nutwrap
    10:09 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Option 1: Spend $100 million for a renovation that will last at least another 25 years. Only cost $4 million a year and could bring in much more revenue. Better than building a new arena for three to four times the cost.

    Option 2: Totally say, “Screw it” and build a $1 billion arena and make sure it’s the best, highest capacity, unmatched by anyone ever arena. Call it “Wildcat Arena.” Have a better HOF. Make sure you can turn it into a concert hall, IFL, Hockey, etc. And finally, only hire the best coach in college basketball for the next 100 years so that we will be first to 3000, first to 4000, and maybe first to 5000, as well as have at least 2x the National Championships as any other program.

    But where are we gonna find $1 billion? Wonder if ole Billy G bleeds blue.

    Note: We should all stop referring to BCG as Billy G and start referring to Bill Gates as Billy G, so that he will become a UK fan and give us a cool bil.

  22. RidgeRunner
    10:11 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    18… umm….oh nothin’

    -somebody give me a beer.

  23. BigBlueBrock
    10:14 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    #21 – Try $250 million for a brand new arena.

    10:16 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    3) I’m a season ticket holder and they have raised the price twice in the last 3 yrs.
    15) The 101 committee (Blue Coats) actually do pay to be in the committee.

  25. ukbbfan
    10:20 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    did UL have luxury boxes in 09-10?

  26. BigBlueBrock
    10:20 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Rupp Arena has no legacy. We won more titles while playing in Memorial. If we were concerned with “legacy,” we’d still be playing in Memorial.

    A new arena comes down to ONE thing – MONEY. That’s it. Luxury suites = MORE MONEY. More seating = MORE MONEY. Forcing legacy season ticket holders to purchase a seat license = A LOT MORE MONEY. Better concessions = MORE MONEY. Better ways of advertising = MORE MONEY.

    It hasn’t been about “legacy” or “history” since 1976.

  27. Rabidcat
    10:20 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Has anyone actually been in the upper section of the Chicken Bucket? I saw the UK/UL game up there, and I saw the Eagles up there… It SUCKS!!! The Arena looks nice, it has some really cool amenities… BUt, The Bucket does not have room for two people to walk side by side up the steps leading to the seats, and the room for people to walk to get to their seats is terrible! I have a size 9 shoe and my feet are up against the back of the seat of the guy in front of me, and if you sit in the middle of the row and have to take a leak 50 people have to get up and move backwards to let you out. It is not as nice as you might think! The ONLY adavantage over Rupp is that the seats are actual seats with backs. Other than that Rupp Arena is better!!!

  28. Tom Handy
    10:23 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Whatever happens I think UK students should ring the court and both basket ends. Standing like the “Eruption Zone” is now.

  29. yesterdays
    10:29 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    The on thing that really separates the Yum center from Rupp is that they can serve alcohol and have built up various bars/VIP areas/rooms built around the consumption of alcohol. The actual view from the seats is about the same at Rupp- Lowers are great, uppers suck. The sound system is better at the Yum Center. However, the experience of being able to have drinks while watching a game is what gets the Yum Center so much attention and praise from rival fans, including this one. take the arguments about alcohol and whether or not you think you need to booze during a game elsewhere. This arugment is dumb and represents a small minority.

  30. Lee
    10:37 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Did you list Indiana as an elite program?

  31. GummyBear
    10:39 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    25.. Yes.

  32. catbalue
    10:39 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Bleacher seats need to go. Let the students have court side seats. One very odd thing at Rupp Arena is that concession income doesn’t belong to UK. Change that and the school will make a butt load of money. No new arena needed.

  33. WildcatsOne
    10:40 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Okay, say they put 25-50 million (that would be the maximum they would invest in the arena itself). To get the amenities such as individual seating, sound system/video improvements, concessions and some sort of luxury accomodations…there will be sacrifices.

    One, the seating capactity will be significanly diminished. Adding standard seating to the upper arena and some kind of luxury area will reduce overall capacity to somewhere around 18-19,000 max. If you want to improve concourses, concessions, restrooms….that will eat up a huge chunk of the money, and possibly affect arena capacity too.

    For Rupp improvements to be viable, it will have to include infrastructure improvements galore. New concert lighting/sound systems require a huge roof structure to support the weight…Rupp’s is obsolete. Plumbing and electrical improvements alone will cost millions. Paint, another million. Throw in a LED ribbon and center mount video scoreboard, and you are well into millions spent….on an old arena building.

    The point I’m trying to make is that for Rupp to be a viable facility long enough to recover the costs of renovating….you will still be left with an arena that is getting very old. It’s sort of like putting a new engine in your 20 year old/300,000 mile Oldsmobile. The engine will look good, but you still have a car with 300,000 miles on it.

    As Rupp continues to age, there will be future problems that will need to be addressed. By the time you pay off the 50 million in these renovations… will have to spend another 25 million to keep the place operable. When do you reach a point that you cut your losses and build new?

  34. donny
    10:43 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Whoever says build an on campus arena is dumb…look how much money being downtown brings the city and local business

  35. Matt
    10:44 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Take away the alchohol from UL they are no longer the most profitable. Period.

  36. kentuckyjoe
    10:45 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Great post BTI. Excellent thinking and suggestions.

  37. Zack
    10:48 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I completely agree that the first rows on the bottom section should be given to students. I am a season ticket holder and just recently switched to lower arena two years ago. However, here is where you have to compromise. Sure, box suites are not necessary for profit as it is. But lets consider the fact that these people who hold the season tix on bottom rows have payed anywhere between $50,000 all the way up to $250,000 donations plus there yearly season tickets cost. You can’t tell a guy who put a quarter of a million to get bent and move back five rows. Thats where the box suites come in. This allows the grey hairs and the university/students to all have their cake and eat it to. Since there is no possible way to put sky boxes in Rupp, the only way to make everybody happy is in a new arena. Obviously this isn’t the reason for building a new arena, but it does allow for a more viscious atmosphere for the opposing team and also allows the ol’ grey hairs to sleep comfortably in their own recliners in a box suite.

  38. steve
    10:49 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    You are either a follower or a leader. Staying stagnant in an arena that does not maximize UK’s potential is not being a leader.

  39. kentuckyfan
    10:56 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    If there was ever a college basketball program that needed and deserves a new arena it is UK. Renovating an old building leaves you with an old worn out building. The UK program deserves better.

  40. RickysPStain
    10:58 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I do agree about the part of changing the seating at Rupp where the floor is surrounded by students Attended UK when the students had half the lower arena on one side way louder and much better, the blue blood sitting zone was on the other side away from the TV Cameras

    Raise the lower seat prices double, let the sitters sit up higher in the lower arena,

    If you need to drink and watch games, UofL is looking for a few good fans to join their ranks….

  41. nope
    11:06 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    #18 no august games per ncaa. I believe such contests are only allowed once every 4 years

  42. Emmert still sucks
    11:18 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    There is no doubt that alcohol sales and sponsorship money by brewers and distillers boosts UL’s bottom line. Plus, no one charges higher seat “loyalty” fees than U-Smell. When they built the “SCUM” center, they royally screwed long time season ticket holders to squeeze every nickel out of them they can. Watch UL the next couple of years. They HAVE no choice but to win, or these fans paying all that money will jump ship faster than you can count them! They won’t pay all that money to watch a losing team so Smell will do all they can to bring in players….including bending the rules as much as they can!

  43. Riptide
    11:23 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    BTI, this is a great post and I agree with you 100%. Renovate and keep the tradition going. Well done.

  44. geauxcats2012!!
    11:24 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    36) Glad to see BTI’s mommy keeping his spirits up. Make her proud!

  45. Former Coach Enes
    11:24 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    As a new Season Ticket Holder (entering my 3rd year), I have to vote against any renovations (luxury boxes and/or replacing Upper Level benches with seats) that is going to reduce the number of total seats. Me and the other new Season Ticket holders would obviously be the first to go. While the benches in the Upper Rows may be uncomfortable and crowded where I sit, it’s certainly better than no seat at all.

  46. david
    11:33 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Raise the damn roof 500 ft.and put rich folks up there.

  47. Dylan
    11:39 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    We REALLY need a statue of Rupp outside

  48. bald
    11:48 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Do your homework, I live in Madison and frequent the kohl center often…-36 luxury suites (28 on Kohl concourse, 8 on Kellner concourse). Three suites (Nicholas Suites) available for rent on an event by event basis with capacities for up to 160 people. Will someone please get someone else besides BTI to write an article!!!!!

  49. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater
    11:51 am June 13, 2011 Permalink

    I like Rupp and think it could use some updating but if the university feels it can be more profitable with a new arena then that’s the way they should go.

  50. CaliUKFan
    12:01 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Did Rupp coach in Rupp Arena? No! Point is that UK already had tradition and a lengthy history prior to Rupp Arena. Our tradition and history is much broader than a building. I don’t think the Yankees or Celtics traditions were tarnished with a new building and I don’t think our tradition would be tarnished with a new building.

    Plus, UK is not reactionary and I find it problematic for us to look at peer programs and base our present and future on them (e.g. Duke or KU have old buildings so we should react to them — I’ll pass on that).

    I hate Dook and their Cameron Crackheads so they’re not a replicable model in my opinion. Illinois and Michigan State are better models and in some way I would like our student section to entirely wrap around the court. Even if parts of the section is staggered to allow for pricey front row seats and family/important people of our opposition, our student section can be improved.

  51. Papaw
    12:30 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Cal will need a new venue to stay for any length of time.

  52. earl sweatshirt
    12:59 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    #45 – You are right, everybody in the upper arena bleacher seats should be uncomfortable so you can keep your season tickets.

  53. BTI sucks as usual
    1:15 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    You’re right #50. Our tradition is 2000 wins, not Rupp Arena. Build a new one and have the first few rows students. Watching a game on tv looks as if you’re watching the movie “cocoon”. The most fun UK games I’ve been too were not at Rupp, they were at venues that served alcohol and had no season ticket holders to tell you to sit down or be quiet.

  54. The Vig
    1:38 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    #24 – BLUEGRASSROOTS – They don’t pay enough. Make ’em pay more if they aren’t smiling.

  55. Hunt
    2:16 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Rupp just got new seats (“just” in terms of how long these things take, and whether they’d invest in yet another new set). I still describe my season seats as being in the purple concourse. Remember when each side was a different color, seats and all?

    Then, like new lawnmower manufacturers, they added cupholders. Right where they’ll get you in the shins. I’m fortunate to be close to the end of the line in that regard, but they are very handy.

    And yes, it would decrease total capacity of Rupp’s upper sections (which contain the bulk of the crowd) by adding seats. Cushioning the benches would be a nice benefit for the upper arena though. Look at the Packers’ Lambeau Field; its entire stadium is nothing but metal benches… and we’re talking about a place so cold you can piss outside and have the stream freeze hanging from your nozzle before it hits the ground. And they pack in (no pun intended) as many fans as humanly possible.

    Of course, most of them bring cushions to sit on. Or a towel; never go anywhere without a towel.

  56. Hunt
    2:21 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Oh, and for the record, as a season ticket holder I yell so loud it sometimes annoys the people around me. But I don’t care, because the tickets were, in very recent memory, $32 then $38 and have now jumped to $50, PLUS we are required to make a MATCHING donation to the K Fund for the privilege.

    So for two seats that’s $50 per seat plus $50 more to FUND THE SCHOLARSHIPS OF THE ACTUAL PLAYERS. That’s $200 a game. How many home games do we have a year? And I don’t know about you, but I am by no means a wealthy man.

  57. DorisBurkeisdumb
    3:40 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Upper arena is awful for anyone over 80 pounds. They do need luxury suites, despite you not being able to grasp why thats important. Lexington, Ky should be a final 4 destination with its location and history and a smaller Rupp, wont make that happen.

  58. WFMAH
    5:25 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Build a dome over Commonwealth Stadium!

  59. Dennis Smith
    6:12 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    like as if all of your suggestions have not been considered a million times.

  60. Catmandoo
    7:02 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    We do need more students around the sides the blue hairs are killing the atmosphere. That’s great that you love KY basketball and your 80 and knitting at the game but why can’t you do it at your house. Oh the reason why is that you can afford it. They should install bleachers in the lower arena to get more people in there. I don’t know why they gotta sit when the the cats are playing I am standing and yelling at my TV anyway. That’s the best idea yet take out the seats in lower rupp. Put more people in there.

  61. mark p
    8:05 pm June 13, 2011 Permalink

    Keep Rupp, make it better and screw Louisville.

  62. Tokyo Satchel
    8:17 am June 14, 2011 Permalink

    Some decent points BTI, but how can you say ” case closed” just because you listed the top 10 and 7 don’t have suites? Jr high debate team? Why not look a how many teams there are that have suites and are outside the top 10? How about analyzing the revenue change from before and after suites?

    Give a little more effort before you say case closed.

  63. Rumor Has It...
    10:16 am June 14, 2011 Permalink

    Rumor has it that the mayor of Lexington, Governor, Mitch, Cal, & more are all scouring these posts for ideas.

    Winner: Bleacher seats in lower arena.


    Also, interesting to note how many can’t have “fun” at a game without partaking of alcohol.