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Official Review by Conrad Klank, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, named in recognition of four-time National Champion coach Adolph Rupp and his 41 year tenure, this 23,000 seat venue in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, routinely draws over 24,000 spectators for marquee matchups. The eight NCAA Championship banners hanging from the rafters greet fans as they enter Rupp Arena and provide a reminder of the history and tradition of the Kentucky basketball program.
Final Four banners and runner-up finishes bring the banner total to 15 on one end. Lining the rafters on the sidelines of the court are retired Wildcat players, coaches, radio announcers, and even equipment managers of years past. If these visuals aren't enough, the public address announcer begins each game with the phrase, "Welcome to Rupp Arena: Home of the Greatest Tradition in the History of College Basketball."
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concession selections are varied at Rupp Arena. On both sides of the arena and on both levels, large banks of standard concessions are available. These offer snacks, such as popcorn. nachos, and entrees, including pulled pork BBQ, all-beef Ballpark franks, and personal Papa John's Pizzas.
Pepsi beverages are available at Rupp Arena in three sizes, as well as bottled. Unfortunately, no alcoholic beverages are served in the arena. One really neat feature that I would encourage taking advantage of, is the number of vending machines available throughout the arena for those fans who aren't interested in waiting in the lengthy halftime lines for a beverage. These machines accept both cash as well as major credit cards.
Additional items available on the main concourse level include: Dunkin' Donuts individual donuts/a dozen Munchkins (a type of donut holes), frozen yogurt cones are sold at their own stand near the court corners (which are surprisingly to me, a huge hit), Gold Star cheese coneys, Kentucky Cattleman's Association brisket sandwich, potato salad, brisket chili, mingua beef jerky, their local favorite ale, and finally Louisiana Passion Chicken & Sausage jambalaya, red beans with smoked sausage, crawfish etouffee, and cajun beef jerky.
The atmosphere at Rupp Arena is known to be one of the best in college basketball. As with many aspects of a visit to Rupp, this gets back to the eight NCAA Championships and the unrivaled fan support and interest that comes as a result. On one end of the court is the eRUPPtion Zone, named after the building's namesake. This is a standing-room-only student section that participates in cheers and distraction stunts during opposing team free throws.
The cheerleaders, dance team, and pep band all enhance the in-game atmosphere. There is a banner in the rafters celebrating the UK cheerleaders' 19 national championships. During the under-4 minute time-out of the second half, the cheerleaders and Wildcat mascot make a pyramid in front of a giant UK flag at center court. As they rotate to face all sides of the arena, fans come to their feet in a roar of school spirit, helping the end-game atmosphere for the 'Cats. This is certainly a special moment of the game, as well as a great photo opportunity.
One of the cooler parts of the arena experience, is actually not even technically located inside the arena. The historical "Rupp Arena" floor has been refurbished and is the floor that fans walk on as they enter the main arena entrance, where it's not uncommon to see cheerleaders welcoming fans and photos being taken, which is a neat experience for the first impressions upon entering.
Fan cams are used to keep fans entertained during timeouts, and these video boards are uniquely found in the upper four corners of the venue (similar to the University of Dayton Arena). The center of the arena rafters are dominated by the dated speaker system which has been in place since the venue's opening in 1976.
Rupp Arena shares a building with the Lexington Center and the Hyatt Regency, which offers a convenient place to stay. There is a Hilton one block to the northeast which is also a popular conference destination when visiting Lexington.
Immediately behind Rupp Arena is Triangle Park, a pleasant venue that hosts outdoor ice skating, a popular activity before and after Wildcat home games during the Christmas season. As the nearby interstates run almost tangential to the city boundary, the downtown area is kept free from massive concrete road structures and traffic, resulting in a smaller town feel in the area around Rupp Arena.
Within a few blocks to the east are the popular locations McCarthy's Irish Bar and Cheapside Bar and Grill. To the south are some popular campus locations, including the classic burger joint Tolly-Ho and the World's Famous Two Keys Tavern.
Additionally, there are a few fun pre and post game gathering spots just across the street from the arena, most notably, Paulie's Toasted Barrel, which is an interesting sports bar with an open layout with a stage geared toward live music. The bar is filled with unique Kentucky based bourbon paraphernalia and signage. This is a great place if you're looking for a good crowd of basketball fans and close proximity to the arena.
Lastly, while not walking distance from the arena, there's a can't miss pizza joint in town called Joe Bologna's that's a local favorite for pre game dinner. Be sure to get a chilled pint of beer and one of their signature deep dish rectangular pizzas. This is a unique and fun experience with other fans going to the game.
Wildcat basketball fans are a unique breed in the world of sports. With no professional teams to offer competition in the state of Kentucky, the state is divided between UK and Louisville fans who will flock from all parts of the state given a chance to attend a game at Rupp Arena or the KFC Yum! Center.
The helpful individuals known as ushers, are easily identified by their uniform of black pants and royal blue blazers, most of whom appear to be retired men who use this as a way to attend every game.
Attending a Kentucky basketball game at Rupp Arena is an easy venture. There is a large parking lot to the south of the arena available for a low rate. Many lots are also available on High Street and other streets to the southeast of the arena for anywhere from $5-$20, with the price decreasing as the distance from the venue increases.
Traffic on U.S. 27 and 68 becomes slow as the game time nears, but taking an alternate route into downtown, such as U.S. 60 or Newtown Pike, can alleviate some of these traffic pressures. Rupp Arena can be accessed easily from the concurrent Interstates 75 and 64, with the venue situated only three miles from the Broadway (U.S. 27 and 68) exit and 4.5 miles from the Newtown Pike exit.
Within the venue, there is adequate handicapped seating found at the top of the lower arena seating sections on both ends of the court. The restrooms, as in many popular venues, will become crowded during halftime, but are large enough to be practical.
As the demand is so high, a ticket to a Kentucky game at Rupp Arena is not an easy find. For non-marquee matchups, tickets can frequently be purchased through secondary ticket resellers in the range of $30-$50, having said that, expect to be uncomfortable in tight, nose-bleed, bleacher seats without backs. Tickets will often go for much higher than this on the street, especially for big or rivalry games. While this is one of the most storied venues in all of college basketball, be sure to save up for lower arena seating, or limit your expectations as a view from the top is not the most enjoyable experience.
The banners hanging from the rafters are truly amazing when you think about the incredible success that the school has seen in men's basketball.
There is a great food and beverage selection found in the arena, especially if you're traveling to a game from out of town, this will be a unique experience as they've done a nice job keeping the majority of the non usual concession items to local favorites.
While we're seeing the addition of fireworks into the pre game intros more and more in college hoops, UK's presentation of fireworks from the rafters is really a neat spectacle!
Finally, an extra point for the fans, because our 5-point scale just isn't enough to give them the justice they deserve. Kentucky Wildcat fans love this team and bleed blue, and it shows when you're at a game in Rupp Arena.
Overall, Rupp Arena should be a staple on your college basketball to-do list, with tons of history, a great game day experience, located in a fun college town.
Member Review by tgreen8091
Rupp Arena, located in downtown Lexington, is, as the PA announcer claims at the start of a game, "The Home of the Greatest Tradition in the History of College Basketball". If the 23,500 blue seats and ultra-passionate fans do not do the venue justice, then the seven national championship banners hanging in the rafters will. Rupp is truly a must-see for any college basketball fan.
Member Review by tgreen8091 on Feb 15, 2013
Named for 41-year and 4-time National Champion coach Adolph Rupp, this 23,000 seat venue in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, routinely draws over 24,000 spectators for marquee matchups. The eight NCAA Championship banners hanging from the rafters greet all fans as they enter Rupp Arena and provide a reminder of the history and tradition of the Kentucky basketball program.
Final Four banners and runner-up finishes bring the banner total to 15, but that is only on one end of court. Lining the rafters on the two sides of the court are retired jerseys for beloved Kentucky players, coaches, radio announcers, and even equipment managers, of years past. If these visual tokens do not tell the whole story, the public address announcer begins each game with the phrase, "Welcome to Rupp Arena: Home of the Greatest Tradition in the History of College Basketball." After another national championship in 2012, Rupp Arena is re-energized and better than ever.
Member Review by basketballnut on Mar 01, 2013
This arena has housed some of the greatest to ever play the game. The history when you walk in the door is mind-boggling, an absolute must see if you are a basketball fan.
Member Review by BillVol on Apr 04, 2014
Once you are seated in Rupp, there is nothing really outstanding about it -- not counting the Kentucky tradition. It reminds me of the old Omni in Atlanta. Because Rupp has bleachers upstairs, they are able to squeeze more people in than the Omni. But they are, in cubic feet, roughly the same size. What makes Rupp great is the Kentucky tradition and the devotion of the fans. There are no more devoted fans of any American sports team than Kentucky's. I give Rupp all fives except for the neighborhood, which is OK but not anything special.
606 S Broadway Rd
Lexington, KY 40508
333 S Limestone St
Lexington, KY 40508
503 South Upper Street
Lexington, KY 40508
117 S Upper St
Lexington, KY 40507
131 Cheapside St
Lexington, KY 40507
517 W Main St
Lexington, KY 40507
1000 Export St
Lexington, KY 40504
401 W High St
Lexington, KY 40507