With more than 23,000 seats, Rupp is the largest arena designed specifically for basketball in the United States. NBBJ, which will be working in collaboration with Lexington-based EOP, elected renovation over expansion or replacement after studying the 3-year-old arena. Renovation, they concluded, would save the city $215 million in construction costs.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said during a press conference that “the state will play some role” in the renovation projects, but did not say how.
The University of Kentucky Wildcats draw large crowds to the downtown arena, as do concerts and other events. Designs for the renovation will be finalized over the next four months, the city said, with work expected to begin in late 2014. Construction will not interfere with the Wildcats’ basketball season.
Renovations to the Lexington Convention Center will add 100,000 square feet to the facility, complementing Rupp’s renovation and amounting to a downtown arts and entertainment district. “Together, they will become the commercial, sports and entertainment destination that transforms Lexington,” said NBBJ partner Robert Mankin in a statement.
Plans for that district last year included other new developments, including retail and housing, but have not secured financing. SCAPE Landscape Architecture was also selected earlier this year to re-imagine the landscape along Town Branch creek running through the site.