(Picture via Rupp Arena/Facebook)
After nearly 3.5 years of renovations and upgrades to the downtown venue, Rupp Arena is near complete.
The home of the Kentucky Wildcats has spent a lot of money over the least few years creating a 'state of the art' venue for fans to watch games, concerts, events, and many more versions of entertainment right here in Lexington. The convention center which had its naming rights purchased by Central Bank in January 2020, officially naming it "Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center," received a $310 million dollar financial spend on the upgrades.
(Picture via Rupp Arena/Facebook)
On April 21st, a viewing party was held to view the concluding changes that were made. Common fans have been able to see the new features throughout the last few seasons as the projects have been going on since 2017, but with it being two months into the offseason, it still looks a little different than from the last home game.
The overall renovations include 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, compared to the previous 66,000 square feet, as well as 16 meeting rooms of various sizes, configurations totaling 30,000 square feet and over 50,000 square feet of hospitality dining areas. The ballroom space also increased to 24,330 square feet, from the previous 17,000 square feet, with the building being connected to two major hotels and the historic Rupp Arena. Some of the early upgrades included the chair replacements to the chair back seating in the upper bowl of the arena, cutting seats down from 23,000 to 19,000 in order of making seating more comfortable for all attendees.
The Cat Walk and parts of the first floor of the pavilion won’t be completed until this summer "due to supply chain issues," said Bill Owen, president and CEO of Lexington Center Corporation. And the club house for UK on the east side of the building "won’t be completed until October."
The convention center also includes the new VIP Lexus Club, which K-Fund members and season ticket holders can enter throughout home games.
(Picture via Grant Peters)
Per an article in the Lane Report, funding for the Central Bank Center expansion was provided by revenue bond issuance and investment from both LFUCG and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The architectural firm NBBJ of Los Angeles was the principal designer with EOP of Lexington in a collaborating role. Messer Construction was the contractor on the project.
“What we have been able to do is take a 1976 building that has served the community for 45 years and create a venue and facility that I would put up against any facility opening today,” said Bill Owen on the revamped space.
“Today we celebrate an investment in tourism, an investment in economic development, an investment in Lexington, an investment in Kentucky,” said Bob Elliston, board president of Lexington Center Corp. “The expanded Central Bank Center facility will sustain, even elevate, Central Kentucky as a meeting destination, keeping Lexington competitive in the regional and national convention marketplace as well as create an iconic visitor destination in the heart of the Bluegrass. Renovations to Rupp Arena sustain its relevance as a first-class sports and entertainment venue and stretch its life far beyond that of most facilities of its kind.”
The Mecca program in all of college basketball now plays in the gold standard of venues across the entire country too. If you get the chance, take a trip down West Vine Street to see the big changes from just the outside - you won't believe how different the downtown scene looks. In my opinion, it looks like something out of a movie and you won't regret going to it. A place that's always been the landmark of downtown Lexington has now hit a new level.