Design for reinvented Rupp unveiled

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - From 1976 on, countless basketball greats have played and coached in Rupp Arena. Now, it's about to go through one of the biggest transformations yet after the city unveiled plans for its renovation..

Monday's announcement drew people from across the state.

"Today is a big day for Lexington, for Kentucky, for the University of Kentucky, and for basketball fans everywhere," said Lexington mayor Jim Gray.

Some renderings were released in the summer of 2013, but Monday, the city released the final designs for the arena and surrounding area. Rupp Arena will be the focal point of the complex, the convention center surrounding it stripped away. The exterior will be made of glass, so those outside can see in. Inside the arena, there will be new amenities like updated video boards, seatback chairs throughout, and WiFi.

"We've been in Rupp. We know what 23,000 people can do. But add in new sound system, new lights, center-hung scoreboard, ribbon boards. Imagine the atmosphere that we can bring to the fan base," said UK Athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy.

Outside, in what's been dubbed the Rupp District, the area is designed to draw people in. Large video boards in the plaza will let people see what's happening inside.

"I'm anxious to see how many people will come and not even have tickets to the game. That's going to be something that's going to he interesting," Peevy said.

The project isn't without opposition.

"From the get-go, I've seen this as an incredible waste of money," said Lexington resident Don Pratt.

The project will cost an estimated $310M.

"They want to spend this large amount of money for destruction of this facility you're standing in now and building a wasteful reimaging of Rupp Arena," Pratt said.

Governor Steve Beshear has included $65 million in bonds for the project in his current budget proposal. It remains to be seen where much of the rest of the money will come from. Mayor Jim Gray said he's in talks with UK, the state, high school athletics, and city council on financial matters. He also said there will be opportunities for the public to get involved.

"It's too early to speculate on those numbers exactly and precisely, but that's where we want to get," Gray said.

Construction will start in 2015 and should be done by Fall 2017. Basketball games will continue in Rupp throughout the renovation.

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