Now in its 30th season as the Kentucky Wildcats’ home court, the facility has seen UK win 90 percent of its home games since it was opened in 1976.
In recent years, Rupp Arena completed renovations - including the lower arena seats being changed to blue from their previous rainbow colors. In addition, new end-zone seating moved the student section closer to the floor in an intimidating, standing-room only arrangement. While the endowment seats along courtside continue to entice 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, the first additions in seating in nearly two decades.
The improvements followed changes that included four new video boards, a new playing floor with a striking new design and enhancements to the concourses as well. It was all part of a $15 million upgrade to what many consider the mecca of college basketball.
Since the fall of 1976, the arena in downtown Lexington has served as home to three national championship teams at Kentucky. Three others have advanced to the Final Four. Eight seasons have witnessed the Cats go unbeaten at home.
It has played host to 405 UK games, countless KHSAA Sweet 16s, a number of NBA exhibitions, 10 NCAA Tournaments, three SEC Tournaments and two Ohio Valley Conference Tournaments. With so many unforgettable moments, the old floor still maintained a value to hoop fans across the Bluegrass and beyond. Therefore, officials made pieces of the relic available for public sale, with proceeds going to the UK Basketball Museum, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association and to help offset the costs of the new playing floor. Thanks to an auction of additional sections, like coaching boxes and lettered end zones, the old floor generated more than $250,000.
The new portable basketball court, adorned with the official interlocking UK logo at midcourt, was designed by both UK officials and the Lexington Center Corporation. Robbins, Inc., in Cincinnati constructed it in 2001 at a cost of $125,000. When assembled, it lies 118 feet below the ceiling and is made of a high-grade northern maple. The floor can be removed and an ice rink can be constructed for ice shows or hockey games thanks to a $2.5 million renovation during the summer of ’96.