Today, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, and representatives of the Lexington Center Corporation held a press conference to announce the progress of the Rupp Arena/Lexington Center redevelopment project. The major announcements were the hirings of Los Angeles architectural firm NBBJ and construction company Hunt Construction, who built the original Rupp Arena back in the 70’s. NBBJ’s most high profile projects include the Staples Center, the Hangzhou Olympic Stadium in Hangzhou, China, and most recently, the renovation of UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. They will also partner with EOP, a local architectural firm.
Jim Gray kicked off the presser by saying that the ultimate goal is to “free Rupp Arena and reinvent it” into a “remarkable iconic building” with modern amenities. What can you expect from the new Rupp Arena? Here’s my breakdown of the very few updates we were given:
What will change:
— Expanded concourse spaces
— A revitalized bowl with chair-back seats
— A new hospitality level with premium suite seating
— A new center-hung scoreboard
— Other amenities “that will preserve the authenticity of the original arena while providing a fresh experience for fans and team personnel.”
What won’t change:
Seating capacity: NBBJ says that the overall seat count will remain at 23,500 after the renovation.
Kentucky’s ability to host games at Rupp: Hunt Construction says they can finish the project in two years (the previous estimate was three) and by doing it in phases, it will not disrupt UK basketball’s ability to host games.
What may change:
The name : Mayor Jim Gray said that while he wants the name “Rupp Arena” to stick around, the name could change to “[Business Name] Rupp Arena” if naming rights are sold. This is still TBD. Former UK coach and Lexington Center Board Member Joe B. Hall told Jerry Tipton: “It can always be ‘Something-Rupp Arena.’ This program is Adolph Rupp’s program. He built it…It could be Alltech Rupp Arena. It could be the Ashland Rupp Arena. It could be the IBM Rupp Arena. Whatever.”
Brent Rice from the Lexington Center Board said the Convention Center and Rupp are separate, so the naming rights will be sold separately and that the board will wait to see how the naming rights for the convention center progress before deciding about Rupp. When asked if Rupp Arena could become the “McDonalds Rupp Arena” or “K-Mart Rupp Arena,” Rice said “there’s significant value to have a company associate their name with Rupp Arena.”
For the love of God, please no.
When does it start?
NBBJ will work with the Lexington Center Corporation and UK to finalize the design and concept, which they hope to release by Big Blue Madness. Groundbreaking is scheduled for Fall 2014.
Where’s the money coming from?
Good question. Governor Steve Beshear said that decisions about funding and financing for Rupp still need to be made. Rice said financial advisers are working on a plan to fund the arena, and that a local sales tax is “not on the table.” More details of the financial model should be available in 30-45 days.
How does UK feel about this?
Also a good question. Noticeably absent from the press conference were major representatives from UK, like Mitch Barnhart, Eli Capilouto, or John Calipari. However, the university did send Eric Monday, UK’s Executive VP for Finance and Administration, as their representative. As mentioned earlier, Joe. B. Hall also spoke, but he is also a LCC Board Member, so in this case, he’s a little bit like Switzerland.
Rice said that UK and the LCC are “at the table” discussing the project and that both hope things will move forward soon.
That’s all, folks.