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Kentucky Basketball: Thoughts on the new Rupp Arena overhaul

The $241 million dollar renovation was long overdue and should provide fans a much better overall experience.

Jason Marcum

The spring and summer has produced a ton of Kentucky basketball news so far in 2018. From the constantly developing recruiting updates, late roster additions, and the Bahamas trip there has been quite a bit of information for fans to digest.

That being said, the announcement of the long over due renovations to Rupp Arena may have been overshadowed by the abundance of news.

I believe that some of the improvements are going to make a substantial difference for the casual fan that may not attend games, mainly because of the extreme expense a lower level ticket brings, as well as the fan who is looking for a more premium experience.

In late May, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart confirmed the plans to overhaul the Arena. Here is exactly what Barnhart had to say:

”Rupp Arena has long been hallowed ground, home to the greatest tradition in college basketball and the best fans in the world. We are in the midst of an effort to make one of the most special venues in all of sports even better with chair-back seating in the upper level and new club areas, answering feedback we have heard often from our fans. We are excited share preliminary details about these upgrades and look forward to providing more information as we move forward.”

Details of the renovation:

- Chairback seating will be installed on the sideline sections of the upper arena. This will encompass sections 211-217 and sections 228-234. This project will begin after the 2018-2019 season, and thus, will not impact any current season ticket holders. Beginning the following season, there will be a new selection process for season ticket holders before the 2019-2020 season.

Currently, I try at all cost to not sit in the upper deck of Rupp Arena, and I know that many people will avoid going to a game all together if it requires sitting in the upper level. Not only are the bleachers uncomfortable but it is also kinda scary having no real way to lean back.

Ticket prices can be outrageous to see the Wildcats play in the lower level at Rupp Arena, especially once conference play begins. This should open up the minds of fans to possibly attend a game in the upper level if that is more in their budget. I know it will for me.

-A total of three club level areas will also be available. Two will open for the 2019-2020 season with the third becoming available in 2020-2021. These premium options will offer high quality amenities that will do a lot more for the pre game experience in comparison to the current Arby’s and Subway options that Rupp Arena offers.

Not only will these areas do a lot of good for the fan experience, it will also generate the required funds to implement these upgrades.

The total cost of the renovation will be 241 million dollars.

Overall, the updates to Rupp Arena should be universally welcomed by any Kentucky basketball fan, or anyone who attends events at Rupp Arena. The only potentially negative impact will be the inevitable reduction in seating capacity that this update brings.

Rupp Arena will reduce capacity to 20,500 after the projects completion. This will sting when national attendance numbers by University are released. UK typically leads the nation in attendance allowing member of the Big Blue Nation to boast about the program’s loyal fans.

That will likely change now that other schools, like Syracuse, will have a larger arena to pack fans into and boost numbers. I always enjoyed bragging about UK’s attendance numbers myself, but the renovations will prove to have more benefits than an those irrelevant stats.

It is also important to remember that there is a pretty nice college basketball arena 90 miles up the road called the KFC YUM center. Reviving Rupp was long over due and and it is only right that the basketball facilities at Kentucky keep pace with everyone else in the nation. Especially it’s rivals.

Hopefully, with happier and more comfortable fans, Rupp will be rocking louder than ever in 2019-2020.

What are your thoughts on the approved plan? Is there enough in it for the common fan?