SBD/February 11, 2014/Facilities

Designs For Rupp Arena Renovation Unveiled, But Financing Still A Question

Premium seating at Rupp Arena could include up to 28 luxury boxes
Renderings for a $310M renovation and redesign of Kentucky's Rupp Arena were unveiled yesterday, with architects saying the most noticeable feature would be an exterior that would "include glass or transparent outer walls that would allow more interaction between the street and what's going on inside," according to a front-page piece by Beth Musgrave of the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said that details of how the arena and new convention center space would be financed "won't be announced until summer or fall." UK Deputy AD DeWayne Peevy said that the school "was in negotiations for a new lease and had been part of the design process since the beginning." Musgrave notes if financing and other parts of the plan "fall into place, construction could begin next year, and the new Rupp and convention center could open" in fall '17. The arena would "remain open during the renovation." The designs "include moving the convention center to the west of Rupp Arena, allowing for expanding and 'freeing'" the venue. The second story would have "areas where people could see inside." NBBJ Architects Partner Robert Mankin said that they "kept the 'bones of Rupp Arena' but would expand it outward to include more concourse space." The interior bowl would "remain largely the same," and the upper bowl would "have chair-backed seats, better lighting, and its own concourse." Officials said that the upper bowl would "have to be removed and rebuilt," but they added that they "thought that work could be done during the off-season." Between the upper and lower decks would "be a ring of premium seats, including club seating and open seats." Premium seating also could include "as many as 28 luxury boxes." The total number of seats would "remain about the same or could increase by 100" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 2/11).

WORK TO DO: In Kentucky, Mark Story writes, "If we've learned anything from our friends in Louisville and the messy KFC Yum Center finances, it is that the devil is in the financing when it comes to arena projects." Story: "I'll tell you when I will get excited. When city officials release a detailed financing plan to indicate how the $310 million price tag will be paid for on a project that will also build a new convention center and do other downtown enhancements." Three "powerful Kentucky figures" in Gov. Steve Beshear, Gray and Lexington Center Corp. BOD Chair Brent Rice have "too much credibility invested in this project now not to make it happen.” Still, until there is a “financing plan in place, there's no real way to gauge whether the current proposals are sound.” Meanwhile, Rice said that “even if naming rights are sold to help pay for the reinvented arena, Adolph Rupp's surname would remain part of the venue's name” (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 2/11). In Louisville, Kyle Tucker writes the “next news conference -- the one where school and athletic department leaders would celebrate signing a new lease with the city of Lexington, thereby securing a sizeable portion of the required revenue -- is most important.” Yesterday’s unveiling was “just the next step in a major project that is far from finalized.” Gray said his vision is “roughly halfway” to coming alive (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 2/11).
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