One area that is significant to Kentucky but has information that is under-known about it is the Rupp Arena. Recently there has been discussion about the relocation of the arena. I want to explain about the controversy between the history of the arena and the effects that the relocation could potentially have on the fans and Kentucky. The decision to be made is to decide weather changing history is good for the future or to continue to build on the old by designing a new arena. I want to talk about how Rupp Arena has renovated to stay current, how the athletic department can not slow down because it is a business, and how the fans/players/ and traditions of the school can be affected by the change of arenas.
When I became a student to the university of Kentucky, I did not realize the effect the Arena has had on the state of Kentucky. I think the Rupp Arena is under-known because it is just recognized as the arena where the university’s basketball team plays as well as a place to hold events such as concerts and shows. It is considered relatively small compared to newer arenas and is debatably talked about being rebuilt. However, the Rupp Arena is much more than just a basketball arena.
It was specifically was named after a sports figure of Kentucky who changed the game UK basketball. Adolph Rupp is the reason the arena is named in his honor. Adolph Rupp happened to be the one of the greatest basketball coaches in American history. He coached the basketball team for the University of Kentucky from 1930 to 1972. His Wildcats teams won four National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958), one National Invitational Tittle in 1946, appeared in twenty National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments and captured twenty-seven Southeastern Conference Tittles (Adolph Rupp). Since his coaching, Kentucky basketball has changed to a higher standard of players with expectations to win. Adolph Rupp had forty-two great years of coaching the wildcats and achieved the accomplishments he strived for. His players earned olymic tittles, played professionally and were even all American athletes. Only a little more than a year before his death, the Wildcats moved from their on-campus Memorial Coliseum that was originally built for war veterans (campus tour) to Rupp Arena. Rupp was named after Adolph in honor of his greatness. The arena is located in downtown Lexington (Adolph Rupp). The University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team still plays at Rupp arena to this day.
The history of the basketball program is one reason the University of Kentucky is nationally known, but another reason is the arena itself. There have been a number of significant games that have been played since the opening of Rupp Arena, making it a historical figure to the University of Kentucky. This is also is a reason why the fan base has become as big as it is today and is continually growing. Other than significant games, there have been a significant number of wins held in the arena. This past win continues the home winning streak of 38 consecutive wins in the home court of Rupp Arena. The home court recently hosted a game where the wildcats played the number one ranked team in basketball currently, the University of North Carolina.
It was a close game but because of the record Rupp Arena holds, losing was not an option. The score was seventy-three to seventy-two, with the wildcats holding the victory. I consider the arena to have an effect on the basketball player’s attitude when they are on the home court because they are held to expectations to keep up with the winning tradition for the arenas sake. However, since the wildcat team is held at a higher standard with expectations of being a championship team, it is debated that the team and their fans deserve an updated arena (Roberts). The arena was opened in 1976, making it only thirty five years old. Thanks to renovations over the years, the arena looks much newer then what is thought. The renovations include, the lower arena seats being transformed from a rainbow assortment of colors to a new sea of Kentucky blue. In addition, new end-zone seating moved the student section closer to the floor. This makes it easy for the students to cheer on their wildcats from a standing only position as well as intimidating the opposing team. While the endowment seats along courtside continue to excite fans to financially support their Wildcats, a large portion of the media have been moved to a “press box” location between the lower and upper seating areas. And finally, nearly 40 seats were added to each corner. This is the first addition in seating in nearly two decades (athletic department).
The improvements followed changes that included four new video boards and a new playing floor that has a sharp new design. Also, each of the concourses has been enhanced as well. All of these improvements were part of a $15 million dollar upgrade. To many, the renovations are considered the mecca of college basketball (Athletic Department).
It has been discussed that instead of building a new stadium, Rupp Arena could be further renovated. The idea would be to change and update the arena to be even more modern to keep up with the trend of “new arenas”. After the creation of the new KFC yum center, the university of Kentucky became more interested in the new arena idea. The benefits of this would be more revenue, happier fans, and a better variety of seating. The only problems are time management, money and space. The basketball team would have no other arena to play in during the time of remodeling except the original Memorial Coliseum that is located on campus. A fear that is considered by the athletic department is the loss of ticket sales because it is a smaller arena. In Comparison to other schools, the university of Kentucky’s old coliseum still out numbers a rival basketball school arena that has been recently renovated. Duke University, which is located in Durham, North Carolina. Duke University is known for their Cameron Stadium. The Stadium can hold a max of 10,000 people. The students are known as the Cameron crazies and once reached a record high of 121.3 decibels in sound during a big game in the Cameron Stadium.
The stadium is a historic figure to their school university and the small atmosphere only helps make for a large crowd feeling with die-hard fans. Referencing to Duke University, this makes me think, does the University of Kentucky really need a new basketball arena? Duke may not have a big arena, but they still have great fans as well as a great basketball program. On a side note, Duke University is a school that also made it to the final four in the year of 2010. The schools main goal is to make the atmosphere filled and this is something that is easily succeeded.
Rather than rebuilding a new arena, remolding has also been an option. Remodeling isn’t a bad idea if there wasn’t so much funding that would be need to be put in effect (Roberts). Rupp Arena is the only off campus arena in the SEC that sporting events are held in. Most people do not understand that the University of Kentucky does not own the current Rupp Arena, nor would the university own the new arena, if one were to be built. Both arenas would be owned by the city. (Nolan Gray). This means money needed to build the new arena could potentially have negative effects on the taxpayers of Kentucky. “Judging by recent projects, a new arena for UK basketball would cost somewhere between $237 million (Yum Center in Louisville) and about $330 million (Amway Center in Orlando)” (Jerry Tipton). Space is also an issue with renovation because of all the things surrounding the Rupp arena. It would be difficult to change the setting of the downtown area because of what is located there.
Despite the fact that it is not a necessity to build a new arena, it is often difficult for the athletic department to decide between tradition and a business. Being a university, it is uncommon to stray away from tradition, especially in the state of Kentucky where everything is built off of tradition and history. For example, the thirty-eight year home winning streak, the “My Old Kentucky Home” song sung after every home game, and camping outside of the Memorial Coliseum (which was originally built for war veterans) for the blue verse white scrimmage, which is also known as ‘Big Blue Madness”.
These are all things that have become a part of the Kentucky Tradition and are events people look forward to doing every year. Personally, I had no idea about the history behind Rupp arena until I cheered my first game there. After seeing all the banners, the student section, and of course singing the “My old Kentucky Home” song, it was unimaginable to think that anyone would want to change a strong bond tied to tradition. Although tradition is important, so is staying with the trend of new arenas. After the creation of Louisville’s new $238 million KFC Yum Center, this has instigated the decision to move forward with the idea to rebuild Rupp Arena (Eblen).
One trouble the athletic department faces, is the process of recruiting new players. Relating back to my point about the Rupp Arena being under-known is exactly how it sounds. Incoming players do not know, nor do they care about the history of Rupp Arena. They only care about what an arena can offer to them in as incentives in order to play for the particular school. In explaining why Rupp Arena does not meet UK basketball’s needs, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart suggests a new downtown facility would be a better recruiting tool. Prospects are impressed by the shiny present and cannot appreciate the musty past (Tipton).
As for current UK basketball players, how can a new arena affect their performance while playing in an arena other then their original “home”? “A study conducted by Phillip E. Varca done on the home advantage in basketball found that home teams play more aggressively at home, and exhibit more aggressive tendencies when playing in front of a friendly crowd”(Giedgowd). This study on crowd interaction and the home advantage showed interesting facts and statistics of a crowd, stadium size, and effect on players. If one of the variables were to be changed, it could have negative effects on the team, fans, or stadium feel as a whole. I recently conducted an interview with a friend named Tyler Hester. He attends every game possible as a student. My question to him was how he felt being a Kentucky fan. I also asked him what his thoughts were about the arena. His response was; “ The true fans are the ones who go to every game, not worrying about what type of seats they are going to sit in, or how new an arena is. They just want to watch their favorite team play the game” (Tyler Hester).
This not only effects the athletic department, but the academic department as well. Instead of trying to better the school through athletics, why not better it through academics? While wanting to make the students happy by allowing them to have a bigger stadium in hopes rampant ticket scouting will go down, it is often forgot that academics is a top priority at every school (Roberts). If money were to be invested in something, why not a new state-of-the-art building for students rather then a state-of-the-art arena? If the reason were to “benefit students” then why not create more parking for the students who are going to watch the game. Rupp arena should not be used as an excuse to where money should go to benefit the student’s sake. It is clear that there is still confusion and arguments on the rebuilding of Rupp Arena. Traditions and memories made in the arena are hard to interfere with but when the lease for the arena runs out, what is there to do and where would the arena be built? If the building were to be built on campus, this would mean that apartment complex to tear down and another thing for the school to worry about. If the building were to be put further downtown, this would cause more Lexington traffic. Either way, there is something to argue about in every case. The fact of the matter is similar to the cliché “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”
All together, tradition is important to the state and so is Rupp Arena. It stands for more than just a place; it is a second home for many Kentuckians. The Rupp arena is not only special to the students and alumni of the university, but also important to the city of Lexington. The arena is unique to the area because it pulls in a variety of people together for one common experience. Upsetting fans is not the goal but 3 things to think about are: how the university does its best to stay current but withhold tradition, the athletic department and business, and the basketball team along with the fans. Now the final thing to think about… could the history of our past have a positive or negative effect on Kentucky’s future?