LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Rupp Arena is about to downsize its capacity as workers plan to make renovations to the home of Kentucky basketball.
The arena will decrease its capacity by 3,000 seats to 20,500 as they are installing chair-back seating in the upper-level sidelines from sections 211-217 and 228-234. This means Rupp Arena will no longer have the distinction as the largest basketball-specific arena by capacity. These additions will complete in time for the 2019-20 basketball season.
The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill and Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville will now have larger capacities.
"Clearly we have enjoyed being the leader in national attendance, but if I have to choose fan experience and making sure people are comfortable in their seats … I want to make sure we have that for our fans versus being number one in attendance. I’m not sure what the win is for us in that. I’d rather have our fans be comfortable and want to be a part of the environment," said UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart in a phone interview.
Despite the decreased capacity, there will be no pricing changes for upper-level seating, and the process for buying tickets will be based on K Fund priority. The university says there will still be enough upper-level student seats to meet the current demand.
There will be no changes to lower-level seating.
Rupp Arena will also be undergoing construction for new club spaces beginning this summer. Three will be built, and two will be for paying customers while the third will be for the university president. These will be complete by the 2019-20 season, and a fourth club space will be ready for the following season. The capacity for club-level seating will reach 3,000.
The clubs will be built without using any existing space as it will be built out on the back of the arena, and there is no view of the court from the clubs. Workers will also install covered parking behind the clubs. People with club access will be able to purchase alcohol.
Rupp Arena will also relinquish its media rights inside the arena to JMI beginning next season. The university says this will improve the atmosphere during UK home games. Only JMI sponsors will be featured in Rupp advertisements.