LEXINGTON, KY (WAVE) - The city of Lexington is gaining more insight into renovating Rupp Arena. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced the results Wednesday of a feasibility study that shows that the cost of reinventing Rupp Arena to create a state-of-the-art home for the Kentucky Wildcats is half the cost of building a new arena.
The study is part of the work of the privately funded Rupp Arena Arts and Entertainment Task Force. The volunteer citizens group that has been meeting since March to make recommendations on how to reactivate Lexington Center/Rupp Arena and 46 acres the city owns that surround those facilities. Those recommendations, including a recommendation on Rupp, are expected in January.
"The study answers the important question of what is possible, both in terms of new construction and reinvention of Rupp Area," said Brent Rice, Task Force chair. "Answering this question was essential for our on-going examination of options, and it was important for the community at large, as well."
The study evaluated four options concerning Rupp and Lexington Center, including alternate locations and a choice between new and renovated facilities.
"To successfully compete, Lexington, like any progressive business, must build its brand by leveraging its assets and making investments, even in tough times," Gray said. "The University of Kentucky basketball program is an enormous asset. It's an international brand. The Cats should play in a state-of-the-art facility, but that facility needs to get off its island and become more connected with downtown so people who come to the games get a full event experience with activities before and after the game."
The study concluded a reinvented Rupp can put more fans closer to the action than newer arenas do and can increase the number of seats and incorporate premium seating. It also determined the Cats could continue to play at Rupp during the renovation … they're doing it at Madison Square Garden.
"I'm very pleased. Very pleased," Gray said. "This study proves what I went way out on a limb and said last January: that it was and still is very possible to retain the awesome energy of the iconic Rupp Arena, while actually getting far more for our city for less money than a new arena would cost us. Rupp's got great bones."
The Task Force is holding its second public meeting Wednesday night to discuss the study and plans for the District and to gather input.