Rupp Arena is an arena located in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. It is the centerpiece of Lexington Center, a convention and shopping facility owned by an arm of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Lexington's consolidated city-county government. The arena was the host of the 1985 NCAA Final Four, won in an upset by Villanova. With an official capacity of 23,500, it was the largest arena ever built specifically for basketball in the United States at the time of its opening in 1976. In Rupp Arena, the Kentucky Wildcats lead the nation in NCAA basketball attendance on a yearly basis. Rupp Arena still remains the largest basketball arena in the United States.
The arena's primary tenant is the Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball
program (although the women's team has seen a great increase in the number of games it has played there in recent years, particularly an upset in early 2006 of the Tennessee Lady Vols
). It also formerly hosted the Kentucky Thoroughblades
(currently the Worcester Sharks
) and the Lexington Men O' War
teams, and continues to host Lexington Horsemen arena football
(capacity 7,550), numerous concerts (theater capacity 2,300; concert hall 10,000; arena capacity 23,500), conventions, and other events. It is named after UK coaching legend Adolph Rupp
, and opened in 1976
, a little more than a year before Rupp's death in late 1977
. Since the 1985 Final Four, Rupp Arena has hosted a number of NCAA Tournament regional games, most recently in 2007
where Kentucky rival Louisville
lost to Texas A&M
, whose coach, Billy Gillispie
, became Kentucky's head coach the following season. Rupp Arena is also home to Kentucky's high school boys basketball Sweet Sixteen, a single elimination tournament which determines the state champion with the sixteen teams representing Kentucky's regional champs, with the bracket determined by random draw.
The arena has an official capacity for basketball of 23,500, but has packed in well over 24,000 for many UK basketball games. This is possible because less than half of the seating (approx. 10,000) consists of chair-back seats, all of them in the lower seating bowl. The lower bowl also incorporates a student standing-room area called the "eRUPPtion Zone" behind one goal. One of the zone's most popular tenants is Kentucky native and UK alum Ashley Judd
. The upper bowl is completely made up of bleachers. Unlike many arenas built in the following years, it has no luxury suites, and has never been renovated to add them (although it has received some minor renovations in other areas); the demand for UK basketball tickets is so overwhelming that adding suites would inevitably reduce the capacity and possibly lead to a fan backlash. Also, it is unlike other facilities in that it has no large center-mounted scoreboard or other such amenities, as the arena's roof was not designed to withstand the weight; however, it does have video boards mounted in the corners and scoreboards/clocks in between the upper and lower bowl. It has a reputation as one of the most intimidating venues for opposing teams in college basketball.
Possible New Arena
In August 2008, the city of Lexington
and the University of Kentucky announced a proposal to build a new downtown basketball arena to replace Rupp Arena. The proposal calls for private financing for a new arena as well as new facilities or improvements for other Kentucky facilities. The new arena could open possibilities for luxury boxes and priority seating, and could open by 2015.
- The ceremonial first basket in the new facility was sunk by Adolph's young grandson Chip (Adolph III), who went on to play college basketball at Southeastern Conference (SEC) rival Vanderbilt.
- Rupp staged three Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournaments between 1982 and 1993; it was also the host of the Ohio Valley Conference men's basketball tournament in 1992 and 1993.
- It hosted WWE Backlash in 2006.
- The Rupp Arena attendance record was set on February 10, 2007, when 24,465 people watched #20 Kentucky play #1 Florida. The final score was a 64-61 victory by the Florida Gators.
- The UK men are the only basketball program in the SEC that plays home games in an off-campus facility. All of the other programs play on-campus, including the UK women, who play in the men's former home of Memorial Coliseum. However, when the women's program expects an unusually large crowd, it will shift an occasional game to Rupp; they notably upset then top-ranked Tennessee there on January 26, 2006. (Some highly ranked women's programs, such as Tennessee and UConn, are large enough draws that schools whose women's teams normally play in smaller venues will shift games to the larger men's venues to accommodate the larger crowds.)
- Rupp is also home to the annual KHSAA State Basketball Championship, with teams from throughout the commonwealth appearing for a shot at the state title.
- The University of Kentucky calls the arena home and boasts a home record of 415-54 (.885) since beginning play there in November 1976. (UK's first win there was in November, 1976 vs. Wisconsin, last win in March, 2008 vs. Florida.)
- The University of Kentucky has led the nation 20 times in NCAA Men's home basketball attendance since the 1976-77 season (32 seasons), including 12 out of the last 13 seasons. This is a national record. (Note: In the 12 seasons that UK did NOT win the NCAA attendance title, they finished a close second to Syracuse. Syracuse plays their games in the Carrier Dome, which has a listed capacity of nearly 10,000 more than Rupp Arena.)
NCAA Tournament Games
- 2007 First and Second Rounds
- 2002 South Regional Final
- 1998 First and Second Rounds
- 1996 Southeast Regional Semi-finals and Final
- 1994 First and Second Rounds
- 1992 Southeast Regional Semi-finals and Final
- 1989 Southeast Regional Semi-finals and Final
- 1985 NCAA Final Four
- 1984 Mideast Regional Semi-finals and Final
- 1980 Mideast Regional Semi-finals and Final
- 1977 Mideast Regional Semi-finals and Final