by Brenna Angel, Kentucky Public Radio
The decision of whether to renovate Rupp Arena or build a new home for the Kentucky Wildcats is still far off, but members of the arena task force heard some initial thoughts today from the recently-chosen master planner.
Gary Bates of the architecture firm Space Group is familiar with downtown Lexington. He once taught at UK’s College of Design. At today’s meeting of the Arena, Arts and Entertainment District Task Force, Bates said preserving Rupp Arena’s atmosphere is a top priority.
“How do you improve fan experience?” he asked. “How do you deal with VIP and investor experience? And how do you deal with all those things and the same time maintaining what I call the whole thing is a kind of eruption zone? I mean that’s what exciting about Rupp for me.”
Whatever happens, Bates says the project will be authentic and unique to Lexington. While the task force is looking at other arts and sporting venues for ideas, Bates says UK basketball fans should not compare Rupp Arena to Louisville’s KFC Yum Center.
“Lexington is competitive by nature just having a great basketball program, so that’s natural I think,” he said. “At the same time I think the experience there is totally different than the experience you have here.”
Bates says everything is on the table when it comes to possible improvements for not just Rupp, but the entire downtown area. A planned technical and financial feasibility study will affect some design choices. The task force is launching a website and will hold public workshops throughout the process.