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Rupp Arena renovations to include fan amenities and integration into downtown

Renovations to Rupp Arena were announced Monday, an estimated $310 million in upgrades that will include an entirely new facade and updated surroundings that Mayor Jim Gray described as a “freed” Rupp Arena. Inside the arena, chairback seats throughout, wifi for fans and a new center-hung scoreboard inside Rupp highlight the project.
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The project’s completion is projected for fall 2017, though that’s contingent upon a timely securing of financing so construction can begin on schedule early next year. Of the $310 million budget for the renovations, $65 million will come from state government, approved by the Kentucky General Assembly three weeks ago. The rest of the financing will come from a “detailed financial plan” that will include a long-term lease with UK, along with partnerships from the state legislature, the Urban County Council, the Kentucky High School Athletics Association, said Brent Rice, chair of the Lexington Center Board of Directors.


International architecture firm NBBJ, which renovated UCLA’s Pauley Pavillion, and local firm EOP worked together to create the design, which Rice described as “locked in.” Gray said with the design in place, the financial plan should more easily come into focus.


“The good news is we’ve got this partnership (with the University of Kentucky) at the table; we’ve got a vision—a clear vision—on where the project is going, and we have solid numbers,” Gray said. “That’s what it takes. I’ve built 850 projects in my career in the construction business and I know that they all have one similar theme: You’ve got to get the design together, you’ve got to have the vision together, and then you’ve got to put an estimate to it. You’ve got to put a pencil to it, you’ve got to get your cost. That’s what forms and shapes the project, so we’ve got a solid platform.”


Kentucky’s lease with the Lexington Center expires in 2017, and its renewal is contingent upon Rupp Arena renovations; that said, UK deputy athletics director DeWayne Peevy said UK has been involved in renovations talks from the start with the expectation that its input would be critical in giving the Wildcats’ men’s basketball team what it needs to feel comfortable signing another long-term lease. Coach John Calipari already has what he needs for the players with the recently built locker rooms, so Peevy said this project is about taking care of fan needs.


Rice said naming rights are “the last thing on the agenda,” and that the name Rupp would remain on the arena, though naming rights for the convention center, the district, or even a name on the front of Rupp Arena could happen at some point.


Scroll through the gallery below to view renderings of the proposed renovations, courtesy of architecture firms NBBJ and EOP. Click here to watch a video from the project architects.
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