Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center is an arena located in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. Since its opening in 1976, it has been the centerpiece of Central Bank Center (formerly Lexington Center), a convention and shopping facility owned by an arm of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, which is located next to the Lexington Hyatt and Hilton hotels. Rupp Arena also serves as home court to the University of Kentucky men's basketball program, and is named after legendary former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp with an official capacity of 20,500. In Rupp Arena, the Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball team is second in the nation in college basketball home attendance. Rupp Arena also regularly hosts concerts, conventions and shows.
The arena's primary tenant is the Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball team, with the Kentucky Wildcats women's basketball team hosting rivalry and power program opponent games at the venue in recent years. Rupp Arena was the host of the 1985 NCAA Final Four, won in an upset by eighth-seeded Villanova. It also formerly hosted the Kentucky Thoroughblades (currently the San Jose Barracuda) (capacity 10,011) and the Lexington Men O' War (capacity 7,500) minor-league hockey teams, and the Lexington Horsemenarena football team (capacity 7,550), numerous concerts (theater capacity 2,300; concert hall 10,000; arena capacity 20,500 approx.), conventions, and other events. It is named after University of Kentucky coaching legend Adolph Rupp, and opened in 1976, a little more than a year before Rupp's death in late 1977. Since the 1985 Final Four, Rupp Arena has hosted a number of NCAA Tournament regional games, most recently in 2013 when it hosted second and third round NCAA Tournament games. Rupp Arena is also home to Kentucky's high school boys' basketball Sweet Sixteen, a single-elimination tournament which determines the state champion with sixteen teams representing each of Kentucky's regional high school champions.
On January 27, 2020, it was announced that Lexington Center's overall naming rights were sold to Central Bank, a local community bank, by the Lexington Center Corporation and JMI Sports, which handles the multimedia rights for both the LCC and the University of Kentucky. The Rupp name will continue to receive primacy in the fourteen-year agreement for the arena portion of the complex, and be known as "Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center".
The arena has an official capacity for basketball of 20,545 following a 2019 renovation project that was part of a larger renovation and expansion of Lexington Center. The most significant change to the arena was the installation of chairback seats in about half of the upper seating bowl.
Before the 2019 renovation, the official capacity was 23,500, but because of the former all-bleacher configuration of the upper seating bowl, it was able to pack in more than 24,000 for many UK basketball games. The lower bowl also incorporates a student standing-room area called the "eRUPPtion Zone" behind one goal. Unlike many arenas built in the following years, it has no luxury suites, and has never been renovated to add them. However, in 2001, the arena received some minor renovations including four oversized video boards, new lower bowl seating, new locker rooms, and a new court.
The first act to perform at Rupp Arena was Lawrence Welk on October 17, 1976. The performance attracted 20,000 people to the newly opened facility.
The ceremonial first basket in the new facility was sunk by Adolph's young grandson Chip (Adolph III), who went on to play college basketball at Southeastern Conference (SEC) rival Vanderbilt.
Rupp Arena is the home court of the Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball team, which boasts an overall record in Rupp Arena of 529-64 (.892) since beginning play there on November 27, 1976. Their last loss was on March 3, 2020 to rival Tennessee. The court itself is named Cawood's Court after longtime University of Kentucky football and men's basketball radio broadcaster Cawood Ledford.
The UK men are the only basketball program in the SEC that plays home games in an off-campus facility. All of the other programs play on campus, including the UK women, who play in the men's former home of Memorial Coliseum. However, when the women's program expects an unusually large crowd, it will shift an occasional game to Rupp.
Rupp is also home to the annual KHSAA State Basketball Championship, known and trademarked as the Sweet Sixteen, with 16 boys' basketball teams from throughout the commonwealth appearing for a shot at the state title. The KHSAA girls' Sweet Sixteen will join the boys' event at Rupp in 2019.
The University of Kentucky has led the nation 25 times in NCAA men's basketball home attendance (an NCAA record) since the 1976-77 season (the previous 39 seasons at Rupp Arena), including 17 out of the last 20 seasons, and eight of the last 10 seasons.
On December 21, 2009, in Rupp Arena, the Kentucky men's basketball team became the first college basketball program to win 2,000 games, in an 88-44 win against the Drexel University Dragons.
On November 8, 2010, ESPN ranked Rupp Arena as the third-loudest venue in college basketball.
Rupp Arena hosted the August 2, 2011, tapings of SmackDown and WWE Superstars, with the former set to air on August 5, 2011, and the latter having aired on August 4, 2011.
The arena hosted several TV tapings for various WWF shows in the 1980s and 1990s.
The 500th win in Rupp Arena came on November 27, 2013, against Eastern Michigan, with Kentucky winning 81-63.
On January 28, 2017, with #4 Kentucky hosting #2 Kansas at Rupp Arena, the Guinness Book of World Records measured the loudest indoor crowd roar at 126.4 dB. It lasted 17 days before Guinness recorded a roar of 130.4 dB at Allen Fieldhouse when West Virginia played at Kansas.
New scoreboard becomes the centerpiece of Rupp Arena
Rupp Arena was approved for various renovations in 2015 to improve the fan experience and to attract more concerts and major events. The approved renovations totaled at $15.8 million that included a new center-hung scoreboard, advertising ribbon boards, wireless internet for fans, and improved roof infrastructure.
The entire list of renovations as stated on UK Athletics' website include:
State-of-the-art Daktronics center-hung video board
15mm ribbon boards
Replaced 16mm LED corner video boards with 6mm LED video boards to produce HD quality image
L Acoustic Line Array audio speaker system
Total sanding and repainting of the floor to reflect UK's updated branding and logo
New basketball goals and new shot clocks
Added press box seating to the east side of the arena
Replaced LED scorer's table with 6mm version and moved the old 10mm scorer's table to the opposite side of the floor for radio broadcast seating
Replaced static ad panels in lower four corners of the arena with LED ad panels