Rupp Arena is one of college basketball’s most revered venues, more for the passion and talent displayed by UK partisans than any inherent beauty it possesses. From the outside, Rupp doesn’t look like much, and it’s located off-campus, so it doesn’t have the collegiate feel that famed venues like Allen Fieldhouse or Cameron Indoor Stadium can boast.
Regardless, Rupp Arena is the heart and soul of Kentucky basketball, and as such, it is the heart and soul of the city of Lexington. Local business interests, backed by the powerful Big Blue Nation, are beginning a renovation campaign in hopes of adding some modern amenities to the building that means so much to the history of the city, the program, and the entire sport of college basketball.
The renovation project is expected to cost $300 million before it’s all said and done. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, $3.2 million in seed money has already been raised, with $2.5 million coming from the General Assembly, a $1.25 appropriation from the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, a $250,000 donation from the Lexington Center and $200,000 from the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau. The newspaper also reported that coach John Calipari is spearheading a $2.6 million renovation of the team locker rooms, backed by private donors whose names Calipari has not yet revealed.
The committee in charge of raising the money is likely hoping that the renovation will energize development in downtown Lexington, though the prospect seems to have been a long time coming already.
(Project head Frank) Butler said he saw Rupp Arena as the start of a downtown renewal 30 years ago, and he shared the board’s passion for the project. As he begins working on the project, Butler said, he would focus on finding a financial adviser and begin working on bid requests for design and construction teams.