A planned Lexington Center and Rupp Arena renovation project moved forward Thursday, when officials approved a $241 million construction contract.
Several aspects of Rupp Arena and its fan experience for University of Kentucky men’s basketball games are set to be modernized in the coming years. Sections of bleacher seats in the upper level will be swapped out in favor of chair-back seating, while new hospitality club areas will be added to the facility.
Renovations to Rupp Arena are taking part of a larger project that includes improvements to the Lexington Center convention facility, with the total construction cost slated to be $241 million. As the result of a vote by the Lexington Center Board on Thursday, the $241 million construction contract was awarded to Messer Construction. More from the Lexington Herald-Leader:
No major changes were made to previously unveiled designs created by NBBJ, an international architecture firm, and EOP Architects of Lexington. The renovation includes a new exterior for Rupp Arena with a signature wedge-shaped front and new upper-level seats.
Work will begin next month. During construction, Rupp will continue to host University of Kentucky men’s basketball games as well as concerts and events, officials said. The convention center will be replaced in two phases so about half its space can continue to be used during construction.
“The next 42 months are going to be a real challenge for our staff,” Lexington Center Director Bill Owen said.
The expanded convention facility, which will wrap Rupp Arena but be a separate building, will total 756,593 square feet. Exhibit space will increase from the current 66,000 square feet to 100,841 square feet, while ballroom space will rise from the current 17,600 square feet to 25,080 square feet.
A groundbreaking ceremony is expected to be held next month, with the full construction project concluding in November 2021. Work will take place in phases so that Rupp Arena and much of the Lexington Center convention facility can continue to operate during the construction period. Rupp Arena originally opened in 1976, and has hosted Kentucky men’s basketball throughout its history.