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Rupp Arena 2-year upgrade plan approved; New scoreboard and WiFi coming

No more Big Bertha?

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

A new center-hung scoreboard and better WiFi are part of a 2-year upgrade plan approved for Rupp Arena.

The plan was approved today by Lexington Center Corp:

This isn't quite the renovation plan that was originally discussed last year, but it's still a nice upgrade.  In 2014, plans of a $351 million renovation of Rupp Arena and attached convention center were scrapped. At some point, some of those upgrades will likely get done, and it looks like the new scoreboard and better WiFi will be here within the next two years.

After all, Kentucky basketball is the gold standard in college basketball, so the arena that houses it should be among the nation's best. Still, I'll miss seeing Big Bertha hanging in the middle of Rupp right before a game tips off.

Here's more info on the upgrades from the official Rupp Arean press release:

Rupp Arena will receive a $15 million dollar technology overhaul that includes a new center-hung video, audio and scoreboard array, wireless internet for fans and patrons and major roof structure improvements so the arena can attract more concerts and major events, it was announced today by Bill Owen, Lexington Center CEO and President.

The Lexington Center Corporation Board of Directors voted unanimously in favor at its monthly meeting on July 27 to approve the technology improvement plan.  The upgrades will be rolled out over an 18 month period beginning immediately and executed in phases so arena programming will face no interruptions. The board of directors authorized installation of LED ribbon boards on the upper arena fascia at its May meeting at a cost of $800,000 provided by Rupp’s media partner, Learfield Sports. The ribbon board will be installed and functional for the upcoming UK basketball season. The press box on the east side upper arena to match the one on the west side and authorized at the May board meeting will be installed following the 2015-16 UK season.

According to Brent Rice, LCC Board Chairman, "The state-of-the-art technology upgrades and new installations approved by the Lexington Center Board will enhance Rupp Arena’s sports and concert fans’ experiences and they will also lead to significant increases in revenue which is vital to the operations of the Lexington Convention Center, Opera House, Triangle Park and Rupp Arena."

Other improvements will include the installation of new venue video production equipment bringing the venue video system to an HD level and replacing the four corner LED screens with HD state of the art screens in a 16X9 aspect ratio.  This will be completed during December between UK games so fans will experience the upgrades as they occur. The LED courtside scorer’s table display will be replaced some time during the upcoming season.

Other improvements scheduled over the next 12 months include replacing the video display in the Rupp Arena lobby and the exterior LED Marquis signs that hang on the Hyatt Regency hotel at Broadway and W. Vine and Broadway and High St.

The center-hung audio/video scoreboard will be installed during the summer of 2016 and completed in time for the 2016-17 UK Men’s basketball season.  Upgraded Wi-Fi will also be installed before the 2016-17 season as well as improvements to the roof’s steel support structure. Upgrades to the roof structure are needed as concerts and other productions have increasingly gotten larger and heavier. In order to continue to attract major concert and family show productions it is necessary to increase the show load capacity for hanging production equipment.

Additionally, the sports lighting used for basketball games will be replaced with LED fixtures which are far more energy efficient. Also, the HVAC ducts and structural support towers, currently red in color, will be cleaned and repainted a different color.

The $15 million improvements will be financed through the sale of Lexington Center bonds which will be conducted in early 2016. The bonds will not require guarantee of Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.