Renovate or replace? Calipari weighs in on Rupp future


Posted on November 30, 2011 at 7:40 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 30 at 8:38 PM

Do you think Rupp Arena should be renovated or rebuilt?

(WHAS11) -- Lexington's Rupp Arena could be "reinvented" and renovated for less than half the cost of building a new basketball arena for the University of Kentucky, according to a feasibility study released by Lexington Mayor Jim Gray on Wednesday.

Lexington leaders who are hoping to leverage the popularity of UK basketball to develop a downtown arena district are encouraged that renovation is an option.

"It's kind of been an unknown fact, what is possible with Rupp," explained Stan Harvey, an urban design planner and arena task force consultant, "Can we meet some of the objectives that U-K wants which we all want?  We want U-K to succeed as well."

The study found that a renovated Rupp Arena could satisfy the criteria listed by the university:

  • At least the same number of seats and added premium seating


  • The basketball schedule would not be impeded during construction


  • Upgrades in support areas such as a training room and media rooms


  • A new television scoreboard above mid-court
  • Maintaining a college, rather than pro atmosphere

"You know every game we come in, is going to be hard for the other team to play in that environment," said Wildcat guard Marquis Teague, "Rupp, the fans are really  supportive. I love playing in this kind of atmosphere."

"I love Rupp Arena," added forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

At a Kentucky General Assembly local government committee hearing Wednesday morning, Gray said the task force is still determining the scope of the project.

"And then that takes us into the financing dimension of the project, revenue streams that may be achievable through a reinvented, reimagined, uplifted event space," Gray said.

"This is about more than Rupp Arena," Harvey said in an interview outside the 35 year old facility.  Lexington owns about 46 acres of property around the site which city leaders hope can be developed into an arts and entertainment district which amplifies the experience of attending basketball games and other Rupp Arena events.

John Calipari, the University of Kentucky head men's basketball coach, said he had "no opinion" about the next generation Rupp Arena, yet stressed it should meet the "gold standard" of the storied basketball program.

"I'm the basketball coach. I want to make sure whatever my players touch is state of the art and is the best in the country," Gray said.

Gray said the Wildcats should play in a state-of-the-art facility, but that Rupp Arena needs to "get off its island" and become more connected with Lexington's downtown.

"If this basketball program can also help our downtown area to be built up, that's fine," Calipari said, "I mean, as long as at the end of the day, we understand this program needs to be the gold standard.  And I believe it is."

With rival Louisville's one year old KFC Yum! Center being described as the best college basketball arena, Calipari was asked if Rupp Arena is still good enough for recruiting.

"It doesn't hurt us in the least right now," Calipari said, "but I can't say that three or four years from now.  Right now, it's Rupp Arena.  Everybody wants to be here.  Everybody wants to come to the games. There's 25,000 (people).

The coach of the top rated Wildcats was most outspoken about the average fans of modest means, some who travel from across the Commonwealth and pack the cheapest seats.

"Those people upstairs. Don't take away, don't now come back and try to overcharge them," Calipari said.