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 It is no secret, and has been confirmed by Mitch Barnhart, that Rupp is an out of date college basketball arena for an elite program.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.