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10 Ways to Improve the Game Day Experience at Rupp Arena


This morning, John Calipari released the final installment of his “Vision of the Program” series in which he outlined his plans for the next ten years (or beyond) at Kentucky. Obviously, the biggest takeaway from the post was Cal’s statement that he wants to retire here, but there were some other gems in there as well, including his vow to improve the game day atmosphere at Rupp Arena.

“One of the first things we want to do is make Rupp Arena the preeminent home-court advantage in basketball,” Cal wrote. “Rupp Arena needs to be about more than just the game. Since I’ve gotten here, little has changed in the game-day atmosphere of that historical gym.”

He’s right. I’ve been to twelve of the fourteen basketball arenas in the SEC and although none of them are as big as Rupp, more often than not, the game day atmosphere is better. Sure, some of that is because big, bad Kentucky’s in the house and SEC basketball, if anything, is about taking down the Cats, but other schools just have us beat when it comes to making what happens before the game, during timeouts, and halftime more entertaining.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how to make the game day atmosphere at Rupp better. Obviously, some fixes are easier than others, so I ranked them in order of difficulty.


Easy fixes (No Renovation)

1. All of the “Cams”

How does Rupp Arena still not have a Kiss Cam? It’s such an easy concept. All you need is a cameraman, a cheesy graphic, some funny music, a captive audience, and BAM! You get either a sweet Kodak moment or instant awkwardness. The Kiss Cam is a staple at basketball arenas across the country, and the fact that UK doesn’t have one yet is starting to feel intentional.

While we’re at it, let’s add a Simba Cam and a Shame Cam. The Simba Cam was started by the Atlanta Braves back in 2014 in honor of their shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who goes by the nickname “Simba.” When the music starts—Elton John’s “Circle of Life,” of course—parents hold their babies up like Rafiki held up Simba during “The Lion King,” and the results are hilarious:

Or, even better, the Shame Cam, which I first saw at Ole Miss back in 2013. Fans who didn’t put on their free t-shirts (because of course there was a whiteout with Kentucky in town) were called out by the camera crew and shamed into putting it on. Think of the fun we could have with this in the lower arena!

On that note…

2. More giveaways

Look, I realize Rupp holds around 24,000 people, so doing a giveaway every night doesn’t make the most sense financially; however, there are few things fans love more than free t-shirts, towels, or anything, really. Get a sponsor on board and at least do the lower arena for big games to make the place look better for TV. Or, better yet, give away LED bracelets to fans at the beginning of the season and encourage them to wear them to each game. PixMob makes some that are programmed to light up in sync with music throughout the game. The Nashville Predators did this at a playoff game I attended a few weeks ago and the effect was really cool:

3. More videos featuring players

The biggest improvement to the game day atmosphere since Calipari took over has been the work by the KyWildcatsTV crew. Week in and week out, they come up with stunning, original intros that get the Rupp crowd out of its seats and ready for the game. (They’re so good at it they won a national award last week.) So, let’s capitalize on their creativity by making even more videos, especially ones that feature players. Have the players lead the crowd in the “Blue/White” or CATS chant. Let fans get to know them with a “Know Your Player” feature or Q&A segment. A common complaint of the one-and-done era is that fans don’t get to know players very well before they’re gone, so this could be an easy way to connect players to fans and keep them entertained during timeouts.

4. Use the heck out of the new scoreboard

We know we’re getting a new center-hung scoreboard, and, knowing Cal, it’s probably one of the best ones out there, so let’s use the heck out of it. Put a noise meter up and challenge the crowd to get loud; encourage fans to tweet pics using a #RuppArena hashtag; heck, put a camera on Ryan Lemond’s head and let him run around, let’s just make it as interactive as possible.

5. Radio headsets

Both Matt and Tom Leach have mentioned this idea before, but why not let fans rent or buy a headset to listen to the radio broadcast? My mother takes her radio to each game to listen to Tom, Mike Pratt, and Matt despite the five-second delay, which, if you’re streaming it via iHeartRadio on your phone, is even worse. Several SEC schools, such as Alabama and Auburn, partner with LiveSportsRadio to rent headsets to fans that don’t have any delay:

Worthwhile investments (Minor Renovation)

6. Bench backs in upper arena

Between the steep pitch and crammed-in benches, the upper arena at Rupp is not a comfortable place to watch a game. I doubt individual chair backs will happen outside of a major renovation, but is it possible to install bench backs? The rows are so narrow it might not be, but that would be a major improvement for those who make the hike up high.

7. Enhanced VIP “K-Fund” area

If you aren’t a K-Fund member, you may not know this, but there is a hospitality room underneath the lower arena for donors to hang out before the game and during halftime. Right now, it’s nothing very fancy, just a big room with tables and TVs set up, but if money is set aside for a minor renovation, an enhanced K-Fund area would make the donors happy and create a cool VIP experience for fans. The Nashville Predators have the Lexus Lounge, a mega private club with catered food, drink, and an area for fans to greet the team before they head on the court. If something similar existed at Rupp, I think plenty of fans would be willing to donate more to the K-Fund to partake.

8. More displays in the concourses

The concourses at Rupp have gone through some minor face lifts over the years, but it would be nice to have some displays to show off the program’s history. Texas A&M’s Reed Arena had a few video displays that showed highlights, big moments, etc. that were really cool, and the cost could be offset with advertisements.

For the long haul (Major Renovation)

9. Create a suite level

All of the above suggestions are minor, but if UK is serious about making Rupp better, they have to redo the seating. This is, of course, a HUGE undertaking that would require millions of dollars and potentially several years, but if the plan is to stay in Rupp, it has to happen. The first priority should be moving the older fans out of the lower arena and expanding the student section. The only way to do this would be making a suite level nice enough that the rich fans would actually prefer to be up there. I mentioned this in my “Behind Enemy Lines” feature on Thompson-Boling Arena back in February, but Tennessee did something very similar in 2007, taking out one side of the upper arena to put in a suite and loge level:

You can read my feature on Thompson-Boling for more details, but the renovation took seven months and cost around $20 million. For comparison’s sake, the current technology renovation at Rupp (new ribbon boards, scoreboard) cost $15 million.

10. Put a student section all around the court

Once the older, richer fans are up, up and away, take out the first five to ten rows around the court and make it standing room only for students, which might require elevating the court a few feet to maintain sight lines for people in higher rows.

…Or not. An elevated court at Rupp might cause more ruckus than moving wealthier fans to the suites. But getting students around the court is paramount to a louder, rowdier Rupp.

Okay, your turn. Let’s hear your suggestions on how to make Rupp a fitting home for the best program in college basketball.

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.

40 Comments for 10 Ways to Improve the Game Day Experience at Rupp Arena

  1. trey
    8:11 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    How about make one game available to all fans that isn’t included in the season ticket package. A free for all could get the rowdiest fans in like the SEC tournament. Also would like 1 game a year in Memorial with tickets distributed the same way.

    • catdaddyd
      1:48 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

      I think we should bring in the Dancing Elites. If they can’t get the people up on their feet no one can.

  2. FakeLarryDavid
    8:18 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    The new video board is nothing special. Cost $2.7 million dollars and is comparable to Ole Miss. It will still be an upgrade, but not UK worthy in my opinion.

    Rendering of video Board:


  3. leon singleton
    8:33 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    Leave well enough alone and win more gamers.

    • ukbradstith
      11:21 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

      We already win them all. I’m pretty sure we have the highest home win percentage since Cal has been here.

    • KentuckyHouse
      7:55 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

      Found the old curmudgeon that doesn’t want to give up their lower arena nap time seats.

  4. Souf beach Lou
    8:41 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    Architecturally speaking Rupp arena has one significant disadvantage that practically no other arena has especially in the SEC has, and it is a fundamental flaw that would make it extremely difficult and or too expensive to fix. Rupp arena was built and designed as a multi purpose facility and not a strictly basketball / indoor sports facility. This is a significant feature and a problem. The problem is financially and logistically the City needs Rupp to be “everything to everyone” meaning it has to host concerts, basketball games, monster truck rally and anything else they can rent it out for. So the city will never give up the revenue it can or used to generate. Think about the great venues in college basketball, they are all strictly for basketball and related indoor sports and limited concerts. What Kentucky needs is a basketball arena that is A BASKETBALL ARENA FIRST! The best case senario from a design standpoint would be to emulate madison square garden type venue where basketball is the main event but it’s flexible enough to accommodate other money making venues without sacrificing basketball.

    • Megan
      6:35 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

      What’s the difference between a facility that’s multi-purpose (basketball, concerts, monster truck rallies, etc.) and one that’s flexible (basketball, concerts, boxing, etc.)? Sounds like you want to limit the flexibility of Rupp by emulating the flexibility of MSG, which seems too subtle a trick to explain.

    • bakju keha
      9:01 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

      someone with sense, finally! Rupp does need fixing, that much is certain. and by fixing, i mean updating.

      the old “sitting cross-armed during game winner” old people need a suite so they can sit and point at George next door who has less money than them and talk about when rupp was here…

      the upper arena needs seat backs, but the narrow pathways make that very difficult to pull off.

      there needs to be better music played during time-outs, which feel like a million when you are at the game.

      wife or daughter on screen video would be the greatest idea of anything ever. period….. but i realize that is very offensive

      the “noise” factor is a hard one to fix. the reason phog allen is so loud is the vaulted ceilings, (and the loud fans) but thats something rupp will never have. i agree with the comment in which i am replying to in saying, if you want a better arena, updating this one will only ever “upgrade” it. making it as loud and intimidating as say “the phog” or “cam indoor” will never happen sadly.

  5. Souf beach Lou
    8:51 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    You want one more “fix”? alcohol. Not just to get people rowdy but if you set up a VIP type area with premium seats, make it 21 and over to get in but sell alcohol, that be one way to entice lower bowl folks to give up their seats to create more student seating near the court

    • ukbradstith
      11:19 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

      Can you sell alcohol in non sec games? I know you can’t in conference games.

    • KentuckyHouse
      7:59 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

      Nope. Look, I get it. People want beer and alcohol at games, but if the SEC ever changes that rule, I will have attended my last UK game in person. People act like idiots and no, they won’t moderate. That’s not what good old boys do. Frankly, if you can’t go more than a couple of hours without a drink, I think you’ve got far worse problems than the lack of alcohol sales at games.

    • KyDoughBoy
      8:31 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

      @Kentuckyhouse you could not be more wrong. In Big 12 games, which I am a WV fan, they claim it has cut down TREMENDOUSLY on pregaming and binging in parking lots/bars. While raising more than a million dollars annually on average (for each school) the pros FAR out weigh the cons. So to stereo type the “good old boys” just goes to show that your methods are outdated and you need to catch up

  6. karlitopequeno
    8:56 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    We really ought to have a UK Hall of Fame exhibit. Phog Allen has one, Cameron Indoor has one, and I’m sure there are plenty more. Make it accessible to the public, and I think you have yourself something that every Cats fan would be able to enjoy whether or not you were able to get a ticket. It wouldn’t do much in the way of adding revenue, but it would be pretty awesome if done correctly.

    • ukbradstith
      11:16 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

      Didn’t we used to have something like that?

  7. WeepNoMore
    9:02 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    How about something as simple as: Replace 90% of the Popcorn States on the home OOC schedule with real teams, i.e., from the other four “power” conferences and even a couple of mid-majors. 75% of the current OOC schedule is simply a continuation of the exhibition schedule

    • ukbradstith
      11:18 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

      You know no other power team or decent mid major will come without a return game, right?

    • Mathlete
      8:21 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

      Not to mention there simply aren’t that many elite teams…

  8. WeepNoMore
    9:03 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    How about something as simple as: Replace 90% of the Popcorn States on the home OOC schedule with real teams, i.e., from the other four “power” conferences and even a couple of mid-majors.

  9. onsides
    9:16 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    I don’t know what they could do. Maybe they should give away free pompoms like they used to do. That gives people something to do with their hands besides golfclap.

  10. kygolfkat51
    10:53 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink


  11. jman3715
    11:21 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    Build an new basketball arena on campus arena that UK controls near the football stadium. More parking and better access for students! On campus concerts and other events. Stop waiting on politicians to make up their mind and work their deals. Build it on campus!!!

  12. Jones
    11:44 pm May 16, 2016 Permalink

    a student section closer to the court is huge all the blue bloods have that and we dont it does hurt the whole college experience RUPP is more like an nba stadium like the garden in NYC i just think the suites and a closer student section would really pay off for the university and the fans its a win win..


  13. cats42301
    12:25 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    I agree with the first post about a game not included in season ticket packages so us “regular” fans. In the past there was the home game @Freedom Hall and before that the UKIT, now there is nothing like that unless you want to include exhibition games. Secondly, students surrounding the court even the first 10 rows will never fly. Short reason is money talks.UK will never give up those seats are give up the exorbitant K fund money associated with them. Plus Lexington high rollers would protest behind the scenes and force the university to abandon it. The only way it would happen if is UK grew a set of steel balls and ignored the rich folks complaints and were able to put Rupp game environment over $$. Just dont think they will ever be willing to give up that substantial amount of money in K fund contributions. If they would have had the foresight to put students in the lower level when Rupp opened we wouldn’t be having this conversation but once again they chose money over what would have made Rupp more of a home court advantage. Plus the lower level rich people will never die out because when they pass on theyll just will the seats to someone else. Once again, UK could say once a person who owns seats in the high dollar seats die they couldnt transfer them. But would that be fair?

  14. cats42301
    12:30 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    Oh I forgot, to fix the problem do like some have said in the past, just slap a dome over Commonwealth 😉

  15. Megan
    7:26 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    How do suites free up the lower level for students? The lower level is still very desirable. Ask Jack and Spike. And there will always be more older, richer fans willing to pay good money for those seats. If you build suites, you’ll have older, richer fans in the suites as well as in the lower level. No one will give up that revenue for the sake of students in the lower level. No, the only people suites benefit are the older, richer fans.

    • Catphn3
      8:09 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

      This is the truest statement I’ve read in this entire post. Basketball and Football are the only two revenue generating sports UK has. Putting in suites is only going to generate a new revenue stream, not create space for an expanded student section. The only way I could see this ever working would be to do something in the same mold as Oklahoma St. They call their arena “the pit” because when you look at it, all the general seating is raised above a small bleacher level in the lower arena. If UK could create a standing room only section for students about 5 rows in the lower level, then raise the seating above that standing height, you could essentially remove 5-10 rows while creating a better viewing experience for everyone in the lower level (think of how the football stadium seating is now).

  16. Mathlete
    8:22 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    Remember a couple of years ago at Madness when UK had everyone download the same app and did a light show that used everyone’s phone screens? What if we did that again for the marquee games?

  17. FunkyMonkey
    8:26 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    Awesome suggestions TT. They were all really super. They’ll do none of them more than likely. These are not creative thinking people. Rupp is not good. Why we don’t have something like Yum when we are the #1 program in the nation is incredulous and a disgrace. Cal should demand it as well as the fans.

  18. Gazza
    8:43 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    No luxury boxes. The true fans are the bleacher fans. This would cut the attendance numbers and replace the true fans that put up with a knee in their back, cramped, no cushion, bleachers seats. My seats are lower level and I think they are more dedicated then anyone around me. How much revenues are enough? None of us can even afford those boxes if they ever do happen. Oh, get rid of the stupid seat license fees too!

  19. bluemoney48
    9:30 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    first, it isn’t called the “K-Club” it is the “K-Fund” big difference there. 2, the room was expanded to the limit it has within the confines of Rupp Arena. Only way to expand it is through a complete renovation of Rupp.

    3, the amount of money raised from the first 6 rows near the court, including floor seats can’t be fully replaced with suite and club level tickets. And to do any sort of renovation, or building a new facility, that revenue stream will be needed in addition to suite/club seating in Rupp to pay down the debt. So the students wrapped around the court won’t happen.

    4, reason for the no “cam” on the boards at Rupp Arena is because the marketing department there doesn’t like them and won’t use them unless forced to.

  20. kentuckyrld
    9:46 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    I think that a simple addition would make a big difference. Since they are putting in a new video and sound system, why not add a solution that would provide a noise meter. Measuring the decibel level and showing it constantly on the screen would be entertaining. It would give the fans a measuring stick to see just how loud they can make the place. This would be a very cheap addition since it would only require a little software and some strategically placed measuring devices all of which are really very inexpensive. It is obviously not a major change but it would be fun and definitely would add to the experience.

  21. Poppschmidty
    10:13 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    1) Change the timeout music.
    2) Update the graphics/videos that are displayed.
    3) Cut the the E-Rupp-tion zone in half and make it at both ends of the court.
    4) I like #20’s idea of the decibel level. It’s a cheap and easy ploy that is makes it a goal to get loud.
    5) No more side-to-side “blue/white” chants. It’s outdated and pits the stadium against each other. “Go Big Blue” or nothing.
    6) No suites, those people in the lowers have earned their seat; but their kids haven’t. Tickets should not be able to be passed on. Nature will work through them eventually.
    7) Alcohol sales would help; if regulated.
    8) Keep Cal
    9) Hang another CHAMPIONSHIP banner

  22. PatGLex
    10:20 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    I think the bench backs would be a big benefit; I keep thinking of the old guy who lost his footing and fell down the bleachers and severely injured himself; I think the bench backs would have stopped his fall.

    A raised floor is scary . . . but I lived in Minnesota for 20 years and the raised floor at The Barn [Williams Arena] is a benefit — the Gophers know how it works because they practice with it, and it intimidates visiting teams. Don’t think it would ever happen, though.

    Also like the idea of the headphones broadcasting in sync with the action on the floor. I’d pay for rental for one of those!

  23. Mc12
    10:36 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    Install some sort of electric shock system under the seats in the lower portion of Rupp and zap the people from time to time to get them to stand.

    Look, this may be a surprise, but you can still be old and make noise while standing for periods of time. I’m not old (getting there), but I’d be willing to spend a high amount of money to sit in the lower section, but then when old people yell at you for standing you have a problem. It’s a college atmosphere.

    That’s why I spend my money on road games and neutral site games like many others.

  24. The Original WTF Guy
    10:52 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    One would think the honor of being able to see The Greatest College Basketball Team in the History of College Basketball play live would be good enough, but no, we want amazingly innovative things like a Kiss Cam to enhance the experience. Why not a “He/She Picked Their Nose Cam” or “He/She Thought That Was A Foul Cam.” And, yes, please can we have more Ryan Lemond with a microphone exhorting people who could not care less to “MAKE SOME NOISE” for a t-shirt? And while we’re at it, maybe we could find a way to build seating that creates a great perception of inequality between those who have and those who don’t. Maybe we could ensure that all luxury suites have cake in them for the bluebloods to throw out to the heathens below.

    The biggest issue with Rupp are the concourses. They are tiny compared to the size of the arena. However, to fix that you might as well build a new facility. But more televisions out there would be nice.

    I can’t imagine how adding alcohol sales does anything but make us more like the crappy little junior college just west of us. Can you imagine how disrupting it will be with people constantly getting up to go get beers? If you want a pro environment, go to a pro game.

    I agree that ringing the arena with students would be a great idea. And if to do that you have to give the geritol crowd suites, then fine. I think the radio headset idea is pretty good, too.

    But other arenas have to use crappy ideas like a Kiss Cam because they don’t have something Rupp Arena does have – UK basketball. If that’s not enough and you need a Kiss Cam and a free t-shirt and a suite and better music/videos, screw you. Sell your tickets to someone who cares about the core reason you are there.

  25. playmorezeppelin
    11:11 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    Having just graduated last year, my only Rupp Arena complaint was the pathetic excuse for a student section. Being shoved in a corner behind one end of the court is borderline insulting. I did the student ticket lottery once before I realized it wasn’t worth it. It seems pretty backwards that they don’t prioritize the people who actually attend the school. Obviously that’s my biased opinion but you can understand the frustration of paying a small fortune for tuition but not reaping the benefits of the institution. Other than that I would say bring back the dancing guy.

  26. ukkatzfan
    11:17 am May 17, 2016 Permalink

    About the kiss cam. Have you ever looked around Rupp arena during a men’s basketball game. It looks like a Betty White concert with all of the boring blue hairs. Once the camera was placed on a couple, someone nearby would have to point it out. Then explain to them what the kiss cam was about and then wait for them tell their “This never would have happened back in the day” story. And if by chance they were to hit a willing couple, it would be called “Got to remove my dentures first” cam. In a best case scenario, it would be a reminder of the Ashley and Dickie V kiss cam.

  27. BigBlueToo
    1:24 pm May 19, 2016 Permalink

    Move the wake to Kerr Brothers.