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Why Rupp Arena’s reduced capacity isn’t a bad thing

This morning’s news that the new renovations to Rupp Arena will reduce capacity from 23,500 to 20,500 has been met with mixed reaction from fans; here’s why it’s actually good for Kentucky basketball.

Kentucky only sold out two games last year

Last year, Kentucky averaged 21,875 fans at home games, a seven percent drop from the previous season and by far the lowest in the Calipari era. This is due to a lot of factors — one-and-done fatigue, late game times, a lack of marquee home opponents — but there’s no denying that attendance is down at games nationwide, an epidemic we’ve covered ad nauseam on this site. As HD TVs get bigger, better, and cheaper and the SEC doesn’t allow everyone to drink at games, that trend isn’t going to end anytime soon. According to official figures (which are always inflated), Kentucky only sold out TWO games last season (Louisville and Florida), and attendance only eclipsed the 23,000 mark five times. Attendance didn’t even meet the new capacity of 20,500 for five games. Empty seats have become a common sight at Rupp, and fewer seats means fewer empty seats, which is a good thing.

One possible casualty of the diminished capacity? Bragging rights. The loss of seats will drop Rupp Arena from the second largest arena in college basketball to the sixth, meaning fans will need to fill the building each game to keep the program No. 1 in average home attendance, a title Kentucky’s won 20 of the last 23 years.

The upper level gets a much-needed upgrade

All seats located along the sidelines in sections 211-217 and 228-234 will be upgraded from bleachers to chairback seating. Anyone who’s watched a game from the upper level of Rupp Arena will agree that this is long overdue. The bleachers in the upper level are painful for even the spryest of backs and elbow room is non-existent. Everyone likes to complain about how UK only rewards rich fans through its renovations, but this upgrade is for the program’s most loyal supporters.

Ticket prices are NOT going up

Another common misconception online is that UK is raising ticket prices to pay for the renovations. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Ticket prices will remain the same, and if you want access to the new club areas, you’ll be able to purchase a separate package, which is the only way around the SEC’s no-alcohol at games policy.

Most of the seats will probably come from the student section

The 3,000 lost seats will come from a mixture of students, staff, and single-game tickets, not season tickets. How UK will divvy that up isn’t finalized yet, but I would bet money that most of the seats will come from students, who have failed to fill their allotment the past several seasons; at the risk of getting into another debate about student tickets, this is totally fair. We’ve said for years that if students don’t use those seats, they’ll lose them, and it looks like that’s about to happen for the greater good.

If you want to scalp tickets, you’ll still be able to

Fewer tickets could lead to a price increase on third-party sites and I can see how that might upset the average fan; however, with attendance continuing to plummet at games nationwide, tickets will still be there for the taking, and for a little extra money, your chances of watching the Cats from a comfortable seat (and maybe even with club area access) are way better than they were before.

Rupp Arena is one of the best venues in college basketball, but it’s time to catch up with the times. Change isn’t always bad.

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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.

33 Comments for Why Rupp Arena’s reduced capacity isn’t a bad thing



  1. slangterm
    12:42 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

    Cut 3,000 seats and raise prices some more and see how much further attendance drops. Rupp needed renovating 15 years ago. Now the greenbacks have spoken for the masses. The response is to make fewer seats and raise prices…again. Get ready for Wal-Mart Rupp Arena after that. For even more funding of course. And of course, higher ticket prices, because the TV money 9 o clock games ai t cuttin’ the mustard.



    • J-Dub421
      1:19 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      Since you clearly didn’t read the article:

      Ticket prices are NOT going up
      Another common misconception online is that UK is raising ticket prices to pay for the renovations. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Ticket prices will remain the same, and if you want access to the new club areas, you’ll be able to purchase a separate package, which is the only way around the SEC’s no-alcohol at games policy.



    • Bigsmooth88
      8:44 am May 26, 2018 Permalink

      As someone who’s 6’4″ I’m glad to see the renovation. I feel like a contortionist when I go to the games.



    • MadHatter
      9:31 am May 26, 2018 Permalink

      Keep telling yourself that JDub..



    • Kernel Sanders
      1:53 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      Maybe ticket prices are not going up. This year. But they introduced the variable game pricing like they do in football a few years ago, and those prices have continued to inch upward. So my guess is for appearance sake, they are touting “no increased ticket prices due to the reno”, but they will of course jack them up next year or very soon.



    • slangterm
      9:09 pm May 26, 2018 Permalink

      I read the article. Do you ever think back to things you’ve read and think to yourself “I wish they would have been more honest”. Of course ticket prices will go up. I also have a great deal on some ocean front property right outside Rupp Arena.



  2. TreyTingle
    12:45 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

    Been a season ticket holder for 25 years. Not sure how much longer I can hold on to my tickets if they keep raising prices. Last year face value for a November game was $65. When Cal first got here they were under $30. I understand inflation, but this is just the university milking the cow.



    • lexslamman
      12:53 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      The real question is if it’s worth owning season tickets to watch a bunch of teenagers flounder around for four months until they finally click and go on a tear for four weeks, only to fall short within reach of a FF or championship once again. Almost all of the regular season is excruciating to watch these days.



    • DennyC
      1:16 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      Gotta pay for Coach Cow somehow!!! LOL!!!!



    • sprtphan
      1:38 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      You guys have certainly paid the price for RP.



    • J-Dub421
      1:20 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      Since you didn’t read the article either:

      Ticket prices are NOT going up
      Another common misconception online is that UK is raising ticket prices to pay for the renovations. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Ticket prices will remain the same, and if you want access to the new club areas, you’ll be able to purchase a separate package, which is the only way around the SEC’s no-alcohol at games policy.



    • Booby Petrino
      1:25 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      Denny, does Louisville even have a basketball team? I can’t remember. They haven’t won a championship since the 80s,according to internet research.



    • runningunnin.454
      1:29 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      Cal and UK are in good shape. Who’s going to clean up the cobwebs at the Yum the next several seasons?
      I nominate DennyC.



    • Kernel Sanders
      2:03 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      Trey, you are both right and wrong. So maybe ticket prices won’t go up this year, but will be hiked again soon. It’s just absurd. I have season tix in upper arena and I guiltily force myself to go see UK vs. Monmouth in November because no one wants to see that game for $50-$60 a ticket or whatever, so I can’t sell them. And I sell the games I really wanna see like Kansas/UCLA/UofL because I refuse to pay $120 per ticket to sit in the rafters anymore. No wonder Rupp doesn’t fill up anymore. For those that will criticize me for complaining while I’m lucky enough to have season tix, I think u are missing the point. UK is pricing Joe Average fan out of the market and they don’t care. Reduce seating capacity, recoup the lost revenue with luxury suites with alcohol sales (and ticket price increases NOT this year, but soon) and voila….it’s still a moneymaker for UK.



    • Just wanted to point out that sprtphan actually broke someone in this thread.



  3. Realme
    1:05 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

    I agree with Tyler. As a non-season ticket holder, I will be more likely to fill one of the spots that has been empty when Upper Arena is safer to navigate and less painful to sit in.



    • Duuuuuude
      1:33 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      But it will likely cost more as the reduction in the amount of seating will reduce the supply, meaning the tickets will cost you more.



    • Mr. Cub
      1:50 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      Duuuude – attendance is declining, meaning revenue is already being lost. It’s not like this renovation is going to result in the immediate loss of revenue generated by 3,000 seats per game. Do you think UK would ever sign off on that????



    • Duuuuuude
      3:45 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      UK cannot control the price scalpers ask for tickets. Simple economics…..reduced supply = increase in price.



    • JoeMoney333
      6:52 am May 26, 2018 Permalink

      Except they aren’t selling out now so it’s not that simple. If you have less of a product people didn’t want the price isn’t going anywhere.



    • TateD
      3:01 pm May 26, 2018 Permalink

      That is simple economics. Assuming that the demand is the exact same. And also scalpers are irrelevant in regards to this situation



  4. Sentient Third Eye
    1:30 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

    Since the renovation is on the upper level, I suspect the bulk of the reduction will be on the backs of fans there. In other words, the number of cheap seats will shrink, which will punish the “nosebleed” fans who are simultaneously the least well-off and the most dedicated. Those are the fans who drive halfway across the state for a few games every year because that’s all they can afford, but it’s like they are going to Disneyland or Muslims making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

    Less is never more, by definition. I think KSR is trying to tell us that 2 + 2 equals 5.



  5. nicky
    1:45 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

    Going with this is a save face move……attendance has been dropping recently so the reduction in seats will make it now filled to capacity again



  6. Mr. Cub
    1:46 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

    More seating inventory, particularly bleachers, is more often not a good thing in today’s universe where every game is televised. If you want evidence, just look at NASCAR. Or U of L for that matter, they haven’t even dedicated their increased seating capacity at Papa John’s and already their new regime realize it was a mistake.

    The next generation of fans are just not going to pay money to travel to a game, parking, etc. and then sit on a bleacher seat – especially at an indoor venue.



    • Kernel Sanders
      2:09 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      Are they going to pay upwards of $120 per ticket in upper arena for marquee games, or $75 per ticket for Tuesday night 9:30 middling SEC games? Because that is the cost now, and while it may hold steady this year, it will go up again in a year or two. I am a season ticket holder in Upper Arena. Not saying seatbacks or a reduction in seating are bad things per se, I’m just saying the average fan is being pushed right out of the arena and I think that’s a shame.



  7. Jiminy Crickets
    2:01 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

    Golden state warriors brand new stadium capacity is 19,350



    • Duuuuuude
      3:47 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

      We all know that Golden State has that cute little basketball program way over thar on the left coast, but we are UK….the gold standard by gawd!



    • Jiminy Crickets
      10:01 am May 26, 2018 Permalink

      It only needs to be 1 seat bigger than Yum



  8. Jiminy Crickets
    2:04 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

    So WHEN not if, the SEC changes the alcohol policy, what good will areas be that can’t see the court?



  9. Sentient Third Eye
    2:51 pm May 25, 2018 Permalink

    This puts us down to only NBA-level size. How humiliating.



  10. rtda225
    8:58 am May 26, 2018 Permalink

    As a student at UK, UK has been terrible about communicating with students about how to purchase tickets. A lot of the students at UK do not learn how to even buy tickets until their second or third year. Also the amount of work going into buying student tickets is absurd. For the average fan they can simply go online or to the ticket office and purchase tickets but students cannot. If UK wants more students at the games then they need to change how students buy tickets. But UK simply just blames students for not going to games and then takes away their tickets leaving more seats for the old season ticket holders who never actually cheer or make any noise.



    • runningunnin.454
      9:09 am May 26, 2018 Permalink

      Now that’s not fair; the grey hairs make a lot of noise…they snore, and flatulate.



  11. Wildcat1963
    2:19 pm May 26, 2018 Permalink

    Without a doubt, the upper arena is the most uncomfortable place around to sit and watch a game. Like sardines. The seatbacks will only make it worse. Why can’t you use a stadium seat? Because the seats are too small. Shins will rub against the new backs and good luck getting out for popcorn. Might be easy for a 10 year old but not as easy for a 55 year old. Not complaining. Just calling out the facts. Anyone differ?