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.
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 quite 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 $4 popcorn or nachos, and entrees, such as $5 pulled pork BBQ, $3 all-beef Ballpark franks, and $7 personal Papa John's Pizzas.
Rupp Arena vending switched from Coca-Cola products to Pepsi products at the start of 2013, prompting much discussion among sports writers and regular attendees. Popular Pepsi beverages are available in three sizes, priced at $3.50, $4, and $4.75. Bottled water is available for $4. As with all SEC events, no alcoholic beverages are served.
As you traverse the main concourse level, many other flavors are found. Individual donuts from Dunkin' Donuts sell for $1.50, or $4 for 12 Munchkins, a type of donut holes. Ice cream cones are sold at their own stand near the court corners for $3.50. A Cheese Coney from Gold Star Chili is available for $3. There is also a stand that sells Kentucky Cattleman's Association products. There, you can get a Brisket Sandwich for $8, Potato Salad for $2, Brisket Chili for $5, Mingua Beef Jerky for $7.50. This stand also serves the local favorite soft drink, Ale-8-1, for $4. Finally, a Louisiana Passion booth offers Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya for $6, Red Beans with Smoked Sausage for $6, Crawfish Étouffée for $7, and Cajun Beef Jerky for $7.50.
The atmosphere at Rupp Arena is 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 playing surface atmosphere is not quite as intimidating as those found at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium or Utah State's Smith Spectrum, but it certainly plays its part in the classic atmosphere of Rupp Arena. This is due to the large allotment of season ticket holders found in the lower arena seats, many of which are older families that are not known to get rowdy at a game.
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 timeout 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.
Fan cams are used to keep fans entertained during timeouts, but no on-screen games or interviews are done, as are commonly found in professional venues. These video boards are uniquely found in the upper four corners of the venue, with the center being dominated by the affectionately-known "Big Bertha", the speaker system which has been in place since the venue's opening in 1976. The rocking noise-levels die out during timeouts, but will quickly resume during intense periods of play.
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.
Very recently, a firm was selected to design a public park around the Town Branch Creek, which runs to the northeast of Rupp Arena, but is currently under ground only. The plans for the park would involve the unearthing of the creek and development of a large public park. This would make a desirable public gathering area that would complement the restaurants and neighborhood around Rupp Arena. Renovations to the arena are also in discussion and could possibly begin in the upcoming years. The current renovation plans include suite seating, all chair-back seating, and a multisided video board over center court.
Wildcat basketball fans are a unique breed in the world of sports. With no professional teams to offer competition in the state of Kentucky, UK is truly the states' team and fans will flock from all parts of the state given a chance to attend a game at Rupp Arena. Their knowledge of the game and team is second to none. This is apparent when carefully observing the reaction of the crowd to common situations such as made baskets or free throws. Rather than cheer arbitrarily, extra crowd buzz can be detected for made free throws by a traditional poor shooter or a made basket by a fan favorite who does not see the court often. An excellent example of the dedication of Wildcat fans was on display during this most recent visit in early 2013: a commemorative plaque was given to a super-fan who has attended over 1,500 Kentucky basketball games in his lifetime.
A unique group of fans is seen in the Committee of 101, the group of volunteer ushers. These helpful individuals are easily identified by their uniform of black pants and royal blue blazers. The fact that these are volunteers is very telling; most of them appear to be retired men who use this as a way to attend every game. It is not uncommon to overhear a conversation between 101 members discussing the game extremely in-depth, another sign that ushering at Rupp Arena is not a job to them, but rather a privileged way to enjoy a cherished activity.
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-$15, 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 3 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 outlets such as StubHub in the range of $30-$50. Tickets will often go for much higher than this on the street, especially for big or rivalry games.
However, a $30 ticket is easily worth it for an opportunity to attend a Kentucky basketball game in Rupp Arena. This is one of the most storied venues in all of college basketball and ticket price can hardly be a stopping point for a dedicated sports fan wanting to cross this destination off his or her sports bucket list.
+2 for the tradition of Kentucky basketball. There are 15 banners hanging proudly in the south rafters, celebrating the team's 8 NCAA Championships and numerous other Final Four appearances.
+1 for the consistent packed attendance. Kentucky has held the top spot in NCAA Division I men's basketball for average attendance per home game for 16 of the past 17 seasons, drawing an average of 23,721 spectators during the 2012 NCAA Championship season.
+1 for the Committee of 101, who really enhance the experience of attending a game at Kentucky with both their friendliness and willingness to help.
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.
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.
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.
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
1000 Export St
Lexington, KY 40504
401 W High St
Lexington, KY 40507