A feasibility study conducted to determine the future of Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington found that the cost of reinventing the facility to create a state-of-the-art home for the University of Kentucky basketball team is half the estimated $300 million cost of building a new arena.
The study is part of the work of the privately funded Rupp Arena Arts and Entertainment Task Force, a volunteer citizens group that has been meeting since March to make recommendations on how to reactivate Lexington’s core, Lexington Center/Rupp Arena and 46 acres the city owns that surround those facilities. The study evaluated four options concerning Rupp and Lexington Center, including alternate locations and a choice between new and renovated facilities.
Based on the results of the study, the task force has approved a plan to reinvent Rupp put forth by SPACE GROUP, an architectural and design firm based in Norway that has handled projects around the world.
Brent Rice, task force chair, said the plan is “remarkable.” “It took what we already have and built on it. It uses what we have, conserves what we have and improves what we have,” Rice said.
“To successfully compete, Lexington, like any progressive business, must build its brand by leveraging its assets and making investments, even in tough times,” Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said. “The University of Kentucky basketball program is an enormous asset. It’s an international brand. The Cats should play in a state-of-the-art facility, but that facility needs to get off its island and become more connected with downtown so people who come to the games get a full event experience with activities before and after the game. This study proves … that it was and still is very possible to retain the awesome energy of the iconic Rupp Arena, while actually getting far more for our city for less money than a new arena would cost us.”