NBBJ and EOP Architects of Lexington unveiled proposed changes to the Lexington Convention Center on Thursday. The estimated 265 million dollar project includes upgrades to the beloved home of the Kentucky Wildcats, Rupp Arena.
In a report published by the Lexington Herald-Leader, the renovations will be complete by December 2020 and will occur in phases to not disrupt previously scheduled events.
The proposed complex will include 756, 593 feet of new exhibition space, ballrooms, and meeting rooms. More importantly, the space will expand the convention center onto land used for parking etc. That will free up room for a major facelift for the iconic arena.
Parts of the existing metal siding on Vine Street will be removed and replaced by a glass surface to form a bridge between Rupp and the convention center. The change will allow parts of the arena to be visible in a busy area of downtown.
Also according to the report, Rupp will get four new hospitality suites, with one being for the exclusive use of the men's basketball program. The club rooms will also save money as they cancel out the idea of luxury boxes, which would have necessitated a costly expansion of the upper bowl.
Finally, the most pressing upgrade for Big Blue Nation, the installation of chairs in the upper deck. At the moment, it is not a guarantee if the switch will happen. Lexington Center officials are investigating the feasibility of an essential technology that will make or break this aspect of the proposal. If the switch does happen, the seating capacity of Rupp will decrease by an unknown number.
Combined with the new center hang scoreboard and sound system, Rupp Arena is gradually inching its way toward the grandeur of 2014's failed plan to overhaul the venue.
The beautification of the complex is more good news for a rapidly evolving downtown Lexington, but it is not essential for many in the BBN.
Rupp Arena's steep upper bowl is a fantastic atmosphere and contains the loudest rooters clad in blue and white. However, it is not the most comfortable setting. Overcrowding makes it a tight squeeze during marquee matchups, and that is not the most confounding issue.
The high rise bleachers make even the most fearless fans tremble in the knees at times. It is often like staring down off the edge of a cliff. Falls have happened, most notably during an exhibition game in 2013 when one left fan Dick Gregory paralyzed.
Seats with backs will not only give fans a more comfortable way to enjoy the basketball game, but it will also provide a stop so that free falls such as Gregory's will never happen again.