In February, Lexington mayor Jim Gray announced that Rupp Arena, the off-campus home of the University of Kentucky basketball program, would be undergoing much-needed renovations estimated to cost some $310 million. The hope at the time was to begin the project in 2015 with renovations being completed in 2017, provided financing and other aspects of the deal were properly taken care of.
Apparently that hasn’t happened, and as a result Mayor Gray announced Wednesday that the project has been suspended. Gray and University of Kentucky president Eli Capilouto were unable to reach common ground on some issues regarding the project, including what all would be done, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“He didn’t feel like the public had the appetite for the project right now,” Gray told The Courier-Journal, “and he could do with less of a project. He said the bleacher seats in the upper arena are fine. He didn’t think adding suites was a priority. He was talking about a proposal where the university would commit 10-15 percent of the original commitment, which would mean the scope of the project would change completely.”
Wednesday’s news is the latest step backward for the project, with the request for funding from the state denied by the Kentucky General Assembly and Capilouto also criticizing the multiple changes in financing back in May. Kentucky’s lease at Rupp Arena runs through the 2017-18 season, so there’s still time to straighten things out. But this is clearly something both parties need to address.
Kentucky has called Rupp Arena home since the 1976-77 season, and they’ve lead the nation in attendance (fans per game) in 17 of the last 19 seasons. Syracuse took over the top spot in 2013-14, averaging 26,253 fans per game to Kentucky’s 22,964.