LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky has locked up a long-term deal to to continue making Rupp Arena its home for men’s basketball.
The new lease runs through 2033. Coach John Calipari called it a win-win for all parties and athletic director Mitch Barnhart said “it’s a good day for Kentucky.”
“We didn’t want to go any place else,” Barnhart said. “We wanted to be there. I don’t think there’s anybody in the world today who sits there and says, ‘Hey, we want to take on a $300 million arena when we’ve got a wonderful, tradition-rich facility that we’ve been playing in for 40 years.”
In June of 2014, a plan for a $350 million renovation for Rupp Arena and the adjacent convention center was halted. Kentucky’s current lease would’ve ended in 2018, but any questions about the university’s long-term plan for Rupp Arena or a separate facility have ended.
A video board and new sound and lighting systems were installed prior to this season, but future renovations — as part of this new deal — include four individual UK entertainment or club suites and replacing all bench seats with chair backs in sections 228-234 and 211-217, an upper-deck area. The renovations should be completed by the start of the 2018-19 season.
“It’s a win-win,” Calipari said. “Our season-ticket holders aren’t going to be paying more for tickets because they had to do upgrades. There’s not going to be more tax-payer money. The city’s not made it – everybody gave something so that this thing works, and I think it’s great.”
Lexington Center will not expend more than $15 million for the renovations. The final terms of the agreement will be hammered out in the coming months, according to a release.
“The city needs us to be downtown,” Barnhart said. “We wanted to be downtown. We’ve got a great place to play and there’s too much history and tradition to walk away from that.”
Calipari joked that he’s trying to get a new contract through 2033 like the arena.
“I’m not sure they’ll go that far,” the coach said. “But no, we’ve got stuff we gotta do here. We had to get that out of the rear-view mirror. Get it out, it’s done, now let’s move on to how we continue to make this the world-class, gold standard of how you do what we do.”
Here’s a look at the planned renovations per the letter of intent between UK and the Lexington Center Corporation.