Local and state officials, along with architects for the Rupp Arena re-design project, unveiled plans for the home of the Kentucky Wildcats on Monday.
The renovation project, expected to cost $310 million and be completed by 2017, includes some drastic and spectacular visual changes to the venue, which originally opened during the 1976-77 season.
In addition to many cosmetic changes, the plan also calls for chairback seats throughout the arena, improved technology, a center-hung scoreboard with video boards and access to more "arts and entertainment venues" surrounding Rupp Arena. A catwalk system is also proposed that would physically connect the arena to UK's campus several blocks away.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said there were approximately 10 steps in the long-awaited process, and that officials are "roughly halfway there." It included securing $65 million in the two-year general fund state budget proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear.
Beshear called it "another step forward in a project that is critical to the future of this region and to the entire Commonwealth."
"It's been a long voyage already, and the waters have sometimes been turbulent," Gray added, "but we can now see land, and the wind is behind our sails."
The remainder of the financing has yet to be determined, although part of it will come through a new lease agreement between UK and the Lexington Center Corporation.
"We've been working on a long-term lease with the University of Kentucky," said LCC Chairman Brent Rice. "We're gaining, but there's still work to do. That lease will define UK's contribution to this project."
Rice said LCC is also in talks with the Kentucky High School Athletics Association for future Sweet 16 state tournament lease agreements.
Of particular interest to fans, Rice added, is the potential for selling "membership" shares in the venue similar to the Green Bay Packers' arrangement with that municipality.
Additional revenue could come from naming rights, although Rice noted that the Rupp name "will always be part of this name."
Gray said the project could be a significant job-creator for Lexington in the future. He cited the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, as being resposible for creating more than 10,000 new jobs in and around the 76-acre district.
CLICK HERE for notes and highlights from the press conference, inlcuding a new video that was released to show some of the plans for the arena and downtown Lexington.
Rupp Reinvented - Animation Fly-Through from Rupp District on Vimeo.
Street-level outside look at the re-designed Rupp Arena.
A new restaurant inside of Rupp Arena.
Bigger concourses inside Rupp Arena.
A view of the court with new video scoreboard hanging over midcourt.