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Calipari and friends join Rupp renovation effort


Kentucky coach John Calipari, center, addresses the crowd during a championship celebration at Rupp Arena Tuesday, April 3, 2012, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky’s basketball team returned home to its adoring fans Tuesday, after defeating Kansas 67-59 Monday night to win the school’s eighth NCAA college basketball championship.(AP Photo/The Lexington Herald-Leader, David Perry)


Rupp Arena is one of college basketball’s most revered venues, more for the passion and talent displayed by UK partisans than any inherent beauty it possesses. From the outside, Rupp doesn’t look like much, and it’s located off-campus, so it doesn’t have the collegiate feel that famed venues like Allen Fieldhouse or Cameron Indoor Stadium can boast.

Regardless, Rupp Arena is the heart and soul of Kentucky basketball, and as such, it is the heart and soul of the city of Lexington. Local business interests, backed by the powerful Big Blue Nation, are beginning a renovation campaign in hopes of adding some modern amenities to the building that means so much to the history of the city, the program, and the entire sport of college basketball.

The renovation project is expected to cost $300 million before it’s all said and done. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, $3.2 million in seed money has already been raised, with $2.5 million coming from the General Assembly, a $1.25 appropriation from the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, a $250,000 donation from the Lexington Center and $200,000 from the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau. The newspaper also reported that coach John Calipari is spearheading a $2.6 million renovation of the team locker rooms, backed by private donors whose names Calipari has not yet revealed.

The committee in charge of raising the money is likely hoping that the renovation will energize development in downtown Lexington, though the prospect seems to have been a long time coming already.

(Project head Frank) Butler said he saw Rupp Arena as the start of a downtown renewal 30 years ago, and he shared the board’s passion for the project. As he begins working on the project, Butler said, he would focus on finding a financial adviser and begin working on bid requests for design and construction teams.

With a fresh national title banner in tow, and Calipari’s formidable recruiting skills dedicated to the project, odds are the money will be found to bring Rupp into the 21st century. Perhaps they’ll even get famed Coach Cal buddy Jay-Z on the case, if he’s not already one of the anonymous donors mentioned above.