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Everything you need to know from the Rupp Arena Press Conference

NBBJ’s Rupp Arena renderings from January 2012

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.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

52 Comments for Everything you need to know from the Rupp Arena Press Conference

  1. Poor College student
    2:41 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Definitely was hoping for more seats since I’m not attending UK and can’t afford to pay 100+ per ticket per game

  2. lesigh
    2:42 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Thanks for the update TT. No word on quality of popcorn and upgraded mouse traps?

  3. BigBlueAces
    2:43 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    As KGB said in Rounders…”I feel so yoonsatyisfied”

  4. Dan
    2:46 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Fans will be angry w/ the name change but funds are hard to come by and maybe that could be used j instead of the coal money. To get a new arena we r gonna have to sacrifice something, I’m cool w/ the name rather than taking tax money.

  5. realme
    2:47 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    So the university has to jump through all kinds of hoops with the state legislature in order to renovate Commonwealth on their own dime, but the city has the governor’s blessing to do whatever they want and figure out how to pay for it eventually?

  6. crazycatfan
    2:48 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Please just keep it RUPP ARENA …

  7. Fat Cat
    2:51 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    I vote for “Big Ass Fan Rupp Arena”

  8. JBarCat
    2:53 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Was nothing mentioned about the exterior? I thought it was going to get a refresher too? Jazz it up a bit?

  9. UKBlue
    2:54 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    This is a political power pissing contest that is already extremely screwed up. Just like politicians: we want all this, but we have no idea how we are going to pay for it; no wonder KY pension program is one of the worst in the country. Naming rights to Rupp: these motherf’ers are willing to sell their souls & sell out whoever to get what they want. Jim Gray must hate his job: he doesn’t have the political capital to be pushing so hard, and this is going to get him kicked out of office.

    1. More seats: they were never going to add more seats; they’re fighting to hold on to the seats they’ve already got now.

  10. BigBlueCPA
    2:54 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Better idea, retractable roof on Commonwealth Stadium, move it on Campus bring the new home locker room from Rupp.

  11. sean
    2:56 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    you cant blow the yum center out of the water by renovating a 40 year old arena, the university got guilt tripped into staying with the convention center, we could of had the best arena in the nation and probably packed in a couple thousand more seats if we would have just left downtown in the dust and build a brand new place, oh well

  12. Tmack
    2:56 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Well it’s finally happening. Tradition be dammed! Sell the naming rights? Why can’t it for once be about fans and tradition and not about corporate money! It’s bad enough we have to pay NBA prices to see college basketball in this town. I refuse to call it anything other than rupp arena

  13. UKBlue1!
    3:02 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    My occasional $40.00 non conference, non big time opponent tickets are now going to cost $60-80.00 dollars. My UNC and UF tickets will cost $175-$200.00.

  14. UK_Greg01
    3:04 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    AWESOME recap thanks TT.

  15. Jeffrey
    3:04 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    They should of up the seating capacity to 26,000, at least. You know we the fans would fill it up.

  16. 1.21 Giggawatts
    3:05 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Until I hear John Calipari’s opinion on the design… I’m not believing anything the City of Lexington tells me.

  17. fullmontycat
    3:08 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    It is sad the UK basketball has less clout than the city of Lexington. Apparently, the City thinks that they are UK’s customer. That’s not how this works. Can’t wait for the next “you’re dumb” because I call it like I see it. No local sales tax but you are trying to make more money locally??? More shops, bars, restaurants, parks, and trails??? Think people. This is a disaster. Is it “dumb” to recognize the hypocrisy in that?

  18. J in Orlando
    3:09 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    I think there is considerable effort to preserve tradition here. It is also tradition that times must change and structures be upgraded. At least they aren’t attempting to screw the entire city/state to get this deal done like they did in Louisville.

  19. tom
    3:11 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    nice rundown Mrs T.
    Not really worried about corporate naming rights. A corporate name is basically used only at the start of a television and radio broadcast. I would think all the other times it would be called just Rupp Arena. For example the official name of the Baltimore baseball stadium is Oriole Park at Camden Yards but everyone just calls it Camden Yards. Now that said, I would have trouble with the Toys-R-Us Rupp Arena.

  20. PhilUK18
    3:18 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink


    No local sales tax? Why would you possibly think that? There’s a local sales tax rate of 6%. You already admitted on the other thread for the Arena renovation that you don’t live even in Kentucky, so why are you now pretending to know the area?

  21. PhilUK18
    3:19 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink


    There you go, I did the work for you.

  22. Cat in CO
    3:20 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Need more seats. Surely could squeeze room for another 3,000 seats. Students deserve to see their Cats and fans do as well. Hell, make it another 5,00 seats.

  23. mgcat
    3:21 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    I’m all For “Al Purnell’s Rupp Arena… cause it’s goooooooood.”

  24. TaxAuditor
    3:26 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    20/21 I am not a fan of 17’s whining, but they are referring to a city sales tax. That local sales tax you are referring to is a state sales tax, the city gets nothing from that. I am not saying I’m a proponent of a local sales tax, just pointing out that you are missing 17s point.

  25. PhilUK18
    3:26 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    For those of you who think UK should just build a new arena on campus, where do you think the money would come from? There’s already not much space on campus that isn’t occupied, and there’s been tons of money sunk into new dorms (badly needed) already. Between that and the space issue, there’s clearly no way that UK can afford a new arena that would cost hundreds of millions.

  26. TaxAuditor
    3:28 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    and for the record I am not aware of any KY cities/towns that have a local sales tax. Other states do it, OH does for sure.

  27. TaxAuditor
    3:29 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    *I should have said cities in other states do it, such as some cities in OH.

  28. DH
    3:30 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    23) If they continue to let the blue hairs sit courtside, Ol’ Folks Rupp Arena might be appropriate

  29. PhilUK18
    3:32 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink


    Touche. I missed his point, although it’s really a poor one anyway IMO. I guess I was distracted by his weird whining about Lexington possibly getting more entertainment options downtown.

  30. Money Changer
    3:40 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Kentucky law does not allow for a general local sales tax. There are some local options like occupation tax, hotel/motel, etc. I expect that a specific tax (like on venue admissions) would pass muster.

    I will be sad to see the corporate logo go up on Rupp, much like I was sad to see the passing of the steam engine and the telegraph. Welcome to the way things are done now.

  31. inlinefor9
    3:42 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    So…am I the only one that thinks it looks basically the same? If we are going just do a renovation, I want it to really be renovated, not just get a facelift. We are going to upgrade the arena and have one that looks 10 years old instead of 40. Not very exciting.

  32. KB
    3:43 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Not a huge fan of naming rights. But if a company is selected they could really get pr points for keeping the title name Rupp Arena and adding their name as the secondary/support, ie. Rupp Arena sponsored by xyz co.

  33. Fan base
    3:44 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    What about making it more fan base around the floor so the players feel that we are the sixth man!!! Like Florida, (hate to say this) duke, and K-state. You play or go to those places you feel the fans because they are close and in your face!!!
    I know those places don’t have as many fans that we have so lets bring them down closer to the the floor make it loud!!!

  34. Big Blue Coming At You
    3:50 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    People will have to get over the name if they want a new or renovated arena. Naming rights help pay for it in an age when the state is broke. I lived in Denver when they were building the new football stadium for the Broncos. Mile High Stadium became Invesco Field at Mile High. There was a huge uproar over the name but that didn’t stop it from being built and fans attending games. Fans can still call it Rupp Arena when it’s done. Everyone else will have to call it by it’s corporate name. Very small price to pay for getting the arena into the 21st century.

  35. Al/in/Indy
    3:59 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    In Indy we’ve just paid off the Hoosier dome about a year before they tore it down, but with said 1% sales tax on all surrounding donut counties on all resturants and food services (the tax was to be resended) they needed funds for Conseco and Lucus, thus keeping that tax in place. Just go with it and hold corporate greed doesn’t make the name too stupid!

  36. The Water Boy
    4:10 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Sounds like UK is not feeling this plan… I tend to agree it is not in their best interest when they can have an on campus arena and pocket 100% of the naming rights themselves.

  37. PhilUK18
    4:20 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink


    I don’t see where the space or money would come from for an on campus arena. I don’t mean this to be or sound condescending, but have you been on campus lately? There’s very little space that’s currently unused. Plus, with the new dorms I doubt there’s a ton of money to pay for an arena right now.

  38. duckeastwood
    4:32 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    1% city payroll tax

  39. jpizzle
    4:33 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    37- I agree and no way Lexington can support 2 big arenas. What events would UK have to supplement income? There aren’t nearly enough home games for that to math to work out. On campus arena isn’t feasible for many reasons

  40. Don't Change the Name
    4:35 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    I absolutely don’t want a corporate name in front of Rupp Arena.

    Is it plausible to consider starting a kickstarter campaign to raise money for the initial naming rights?
    And if/once funded, choose to leave the name unchanged?

  41. The Water Boy
    4:37 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    37. Have you been by Commonwealth Stadium? PLENTY of space available there. Money is different matter. Just reading between the lines it sounds like they have not been too thrilled with the city’s plan from the get go.

  42. Tmack
    4:53 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Big blue this ain’t Denver and we don’t want to be like everyone else! Aren’t the guys deciding this crap elected officials? Thought so. Make your voice loud and clear! By the way corporate naming working well in Louisville it’s a laughing stock!

  43. ky
    4:54 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    30.) Harrodsburg has a 3 cent extra tax for restaurants, so it’s 9 cents instead of 6 at every restaurant.

  44. wabaco
    5:13 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t care if they sell they naming rights as long as it’s an instate company. For example: Maker’s Mark Rupp Arena.

  45. NYSE Big Board
    5:35 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    44)I like the concept and get your point, but Maker’s Mark is owned by Fortune Brands, headquartered in Illinois.

  46. I've got some of this in my portfolio
    5:41 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    45: Technically, Fortune spun off its spirit division into Beam Inc (where the Maker’s Mark brand is housed). Still headquartered in Illinois, though. Trading at around 63 bucks a share at last check.

  47. Where????
    5:56 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Just want to know if my seats are gonna change GRRRRR lets not consider the people for who have been donating money for years. Piss on luxury boxes.

  48. Megan
    5:56 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Oh no, here comes the corporate sponsorship. “The Stayfree Maxi Super Long with Wings Rupp Arena.” Kinda trips off the tongue.

    It raises the question what corporate sponsor would truly be fitting of the distinction.

  49. Eight Letters
    6:08 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    If it absolutely has to have a corporate name, then it needs to be IBM….Big Blue for Big Blue.

  50. Bob
    7:13 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    I guarantee you we as the taxpayers are going to get screwed in this deal.

  51. Somersetmoron
    7:23 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    Yeah, but will farmers and Millionaires still be able to sit together and high five?

  52. Somersetmoron
    7:26 pm July 10, 2013 Permalink

    37- those dorms are being constructed on the outsourced real estate corp’s dime I believe, not the universities