Home » Architect, construction firm picked for reinvention of Rupp Arena; financial plan coming ‘in 30 days’

Architect, construction firm picked for reinvention of Rupp Arena; financial plan coming ‘in 30 days’

Specific designs not announced yet

By Mark Green | The Lane Report

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 10, 2013) – A  financial plan “will be finalized in 30 days” to pay for major Rupp Arena renovations of “the holy grail of college basketball” and open its beige metal box exterior walls to the surrounding urban landscape, said local and state officials Wednesday during a news conference naming the architect and construction firm chosen to do the work.

image002“When it’s finished, (financing) will be bulletproof,” said Lexington Center Board Chairman Brent Rice, who leads the task force that has been at work on a “reimagining” of 37-year-old Rupp Arena and Lexington Center since December 2011.

Mayor Jim Gray said NBBJ architects and Hunt Construction Group were named to design and build, respectively, a “reinvented” Rupp Arena, since 1976 the 23,500-seat home of University of Kentucky basketball, the winningest program in the nation.

Conceptual plans include uncovering the long-buried Town Branch waterway along which what became Lexington was settled some 250 years ago. Rupp Arena and Lexington Center’s metal wall are to become transparent so that basketball games, concerts and other events that now take place invisibly become urban energy generating activity for downtown Lexington.

Some of the top design and construction teams in the world came in to pitch for the Rupp reinvention job, said Gray. He said NBBJ, which designed the Staple Center in Los Angeles, China’s Hangzhou Olympic Sports Stadium and another basketball icon, the UCLA Pauley Pavilion and Exhibition Center, among its many major projects, was chosen because of its clear “passion to be a part of this project.”

NBBJ will work with EOP architects of Lexington.

“It’s going to move forward and we’re going to move forward quickly,” said Robert Mankin, partner in charge of sports design for NBBJ.

No specific dollar figure has been placed on the project, whose final design will determine cost, but guesstimates previously have begun at more than $100 million and ranged up to $300 million.

No consideration is being given to using a local-option sales tax, Rice said.

Gov. Steve Beshear said paying for the project will involve “a partnership of many,” including the state, which appropriated $75 million toward Louisville’s downtown arena in 2006, leading to the late 2010 opening of the $238 million KFC Yum! Center.

“The decisions announced today represent a significant step forward in the reinvention of Rupp Arena and the downtown business district, which will strengthen the area’s ability to attract tourism, investment and jobs,” Beshear said. “To compete successfully, Lexington, like any progressive business, must build its brand by leveraging its assets and making investments – and Rupp Arena is a key part of that plan.”

“There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And now is that time,” Gray said.

The Lexington Center Board voted this morning to hire the architect and construction manager after a rigorous selection process. Rice said the city and Lexington Center will work with UK on the project. “We understand UK’s goals and vision and they understand ours. We have pledged to work together,” he said.

Gray said there is no specific design for Rupp yet. “That’s next,” he said. “But you can judge NBBJ by the excellent work it has done around the world,”

He closed the heavily attended news conference, which included enthusiastic comments from former UK coach Joe B. Hall, with a recorded pep talk that Hall’s predecessor and the arena’s namesake Adolph Rupp said in 1971 that he’d given to his first UK team. In it, Rupp cited Daniel Boone and Kentucky’s first pioneers’ spirit in pursuing new ventures that, rather than guaranteeing safety and stability, promised only an opportunity. If they worked hard together and executed perfectly, Rupp told his team, they were likely to achieve greatness.