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Study: Renovating Rupp Arena cheaper than building new arena

It's cheaper to renovate, than to build.

That's the findings of a feasibility study from a task force looking into the future of Rupp Arena.

On Wednesday morning, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced the results of the study to a committee in Frankfort.

While any decision about Rupp Arena's future is still months away, Gray said this study will play a role.

The study, from the Arena Arts and Entertainment Task Force, found renovating Rupp Arena would cost less than half of what the city would spend to build a new arena.

One option would simply renovate both Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center. That scenario would be the least expensive, costing between $142 and $162 million.

The most expensive option would be building a new arena and convention center, at a cost between $480 and $500 million.

A third option would renovate Rupp Arena, and build a new convention center in the Cox Street parking lot. That would cost between $212 and $232 million.

Placing a new convention center across High Street from a renovated Rupp Arena in the Maxwell Street parking lot would cost between $259 and $279 million.

"To successfully compete, Lexington, like any progressive business, must build its brand by leveraging its assets and making investments, even in tough times," Gray said. "The University of Kentucky basketball program is an enormous asset. It's an international brand. The Cats should play in a state-of-the-art facility, but that facility needs to get off its island and become more connected with downtown so people who come to the games get a full event experience with activities before and after the game."

The study also found renovations could be made to Rupp Arena, while still meeting the needs of the University of Kentucky.

The study says the Cats would still play at Rupp Arena while renovations were going on. Renovations would also create a modest increase in the number of seats, incorporate premium seating, and add chair backs to seats in the upper level.

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