Rupp Arena will be modernized as a stand-alone facility with a glass-and-steel appearance that state and local officials promise will improve accessibility and comfort for Kentucky basketball fans.
Lexington city officials on Monday revealed the long-awaited redesign of the 38-year-old home of Wildcats men's basketball, with an estimated $310 million budget including $65 million in state bonds. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2017.
The new design will separate Rupp from the adjoining convention center and replace its enclosed beige facade with windows, which Mayor Jim Gray says will allow views from inside and outside the building. It adds a center-hanging scoreboard and chair backs throughout, a reconfiguration that university athletic spokesman DeWayne Peevy says could include creation of club suites to retain its capacity of 23,500.
As for Kentucky's input, Peevy said, "We're on board to the point where we've spent a lot of time since the summer, to the design phase to looking at a new lease agreement to trying to figure out what (Kentucky's) financial plan will be finalized. ... We all have to come together to make this happen."
Naming rights will be determined, but Gray stressed that Rupp will be included in the title of the project he believes will benefit fans and the city.
"I like the whole notion of (an) indoor-outdoor fan experience," Gray said of the final design, "but it's (an) event experience. ... A before-the-game experience, an after-the-game experience. It's more than about just sitting in your seats at a game. We've seen this work in other places."
In choosing Seattle-based architectural firm NBBJ last summer to remake Rupp, Gray believes the city got a brighter, state-of-the-art product in line with the firm's highly-praised renovation and expansion of UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. The existing shopping mall connecting Rupp to the convention center will become an open-air plaza, with the arena's current boxy look replaced by extended corners with glass on three sides that allows light into the arena.
Seat backs in Rupp's upper deck will replace bleachers, while the overhanging scoreboard brings Rupp in line with other facilities' technology upgrades.
Hunt Construction Group of Indianapolis will handle renovation of the arena that it originally built in the early 1970s.