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Big Blue Nation concerned about renovating Rupp Arena

Aug 18, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

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Earlier this summer, rumors swirled that Rupp Arena may undergo a face-lift in the near future. This news came with some very mixed emotions to many, and that hasn’t changed in the subsequent months.

Change can be good, but not to all in Big Blue Nation who feel that renovating Rupp Arena and potentially changing the name of the arena — gasp — would cause a divide among the fan base. In the latest update of this saga, mayor Jim Gray said he welcomes all kinds of second-guessing when it comes to renovating Rupp, according to KentuckySports.com: “It’s been very informing to hear those voices, which illustrate just how much people care and the attachment they have to this shrine.”

A major part of the renovation would be to add luxury suites, loge boxes and a private lounge. Suites and other lavish amenities — who wouldn’t want this? On the surface it looks nice, but the primary issue is that ticket prices would almost assuredly increase, and that is reason for concern for much of Big Blue Nation. Fans whose wallets aren’t quite as thick as some others may be forced to give up their seats.

University of Kentucky trustee Carol Martin “Bill” Gatton summed up his thoughts on the possibility of fans losing their seats due to a rise in prices: “That’s not fair.”

Of course, all arenas need to undergo renovations at some point in time, but it’s the manner in which it’s conducted that has some of Big Blue Nation concerned. Gray has urged fans not to judge any modifications Rupp undergoes just yet. Renovations will include more than just including luxury suites, Gray explained: “The nature of video technology and engagement changes. How we incorporate all that into this project is a big part of the project.”

Much of Big Blue Nation could probably live with a new Rupp Arena, but what if it’s no longer called “Rupp Arena?” That would almost assuredly have the entire state of Kentucky and fans across the nation up in arms:
As for naming rights, Gray saw multiple possibilities: the Lexington Convention Center (Alltech and an undisclosed second firm have made bids), Rupp Arena, the entire entertainment district, an outdoor amphitheater and who knows what other elements. But he called adding a corporate name to Rupp Arena a “last resort.”
It certainly seems like upgrades are inevitable, but to what degree and at what cost will they occur? Gatton is willing to offset some of these costs:

Gatton also said he’d give “a few million” to Gray’s project if the city agreed to a scaled-down renovation: Only upgrade the restrooms, plus install a scoreboard over center court and electronic ribbon signage at the bottom of the upper arena. After noting that a scoreboard over center court would require a “substantial” strengthening of Rupp Arena’s roof, Gray showed little interest in a modest renovation. “To me, it’s worth doing only if it’s extraordinary and remarkable,” he said.

Would Kentucky basketball have it not be “extraordinary” or “remarkable?” That’s all they know.

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