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Study: Cheaper to renovate Rupp Arena than to build new facility

University of Kentucky WildcatsThis isn’t always true, but it makes sense: it would be cheaper to renovate Rupp Arena than to build a new downtown arena for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

Everyone agrees Rupp Arena in its present configuration is at the end of its economic life: Wildcats basketball is enormously popular, and there’s more money to be made in terms of things like premium seating and upgraded amenities.

A study from the Lexington’s Arena, Arts & Entertainment Task Force has mapped out the costs of a new arena versus a renovation. Usually renovations don’t make a lot of sense when it comes to 30-plus-year-old facilities (Rupp Arena opened in 1976), as older arenas tend to be on the smaller side. But Rupp Arena is huge, seating more than 23,000.

And that larger size makes renovations economically feasible, according to the task force. A renovation that would address all requirements (upgraded seating without losing capacity, no shutdown during construction, more amenities, creation of a more intimate atmosphere) would cost between $110 million and $130 million, while a new arena could cost a minimum of $300 million. Upgrading the adjoining convention center to be competitive against facilities in similarly sized markets would cost $70 million, versus a minimum of $100 million for a new facility.

That’s a significant price difference, one sure to appeal to frugal legislators in difficult times. A final recommendation is expected by the end of January, but the handwriting is clearly on the wall.

RELATED STORIES: Renovations eyed for Rupp Arena; MG/ISG retained by UK to negotiate financing, sponsorships at new downtown Lexington arena; Kentucky evaluating three proposals for privately financed arena; New Kentucky arena won’t feature Rupp name; Kentucky explores replacing Rupp Arena; Rupp Arena to become ballet center?


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