Although his team plays in “the best arena in the world,’ University of Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie welcomes the possibility of a new home arena.
Gillispie called Rupp Arena “one of the most special places ever.” But, he added, “You’re not going to go backward. You see if you can improve upon the fantastic facilities you already have.”
UK baseball coach Gary Henderson looked favorably on a new baseball stadium.
“It’d be good for Kentucky baseball because a new stadium is commitment,” he said.
UK went public with its consideration of new basketball and baseball venues on Thursday when Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart asked the Lexington Center Corp., which operates Rupp Arena, to endorse a study into the feasibility of building a new arena in downtown Lexington.
“I think we play in the best arena in the world right now,” Gillispie said in reaction to the feasibility study. “Everybody knows that, and I really believe acknowledges that.
“But when you get a chance to look into the possibility of even improving on something of that nature, that’s pretty exciting.”
When asked how Rupp Arena could be improved upon, Gillispie noted that such facilities have a finite shelf life. He also mentioned “trends” in facilities, which would include an athletic department’s current affection for the money-making potential of luxury suites and priority seating plans.
Gillispie said that such bottom-line considerations leave only a “listen and learn” role for coaches.
“I don’t think it’s proper for basketball coaches to do anything but support the leadership of the city and the school and the administration of the school.”
As for baseball, Henderson sounded optimistic that UK would build a new stadium, probably across Alumni Drive from the Arboretum.
“No question, we’re going to have, in the near future, a new facility,” Henderson said.
Deputy Director of Athletics Rob Mullens said that the plan would have softball move to the existing baseball facilities at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
“Our facility has been plenty good for us to be successful here,” Henderson said. “But there are a number of new facilities and new changes in the conference. And we have to keep up.
“That’s the nature of what we do and the nature of the SEC (Southeastern Conference).”
Gillispie and Henderson noted how a new arena or stadium can be used as a recruiting tool.
“Like anything in life, whether you’re talking facilities or homes or automobiles, kids will want the nicest place to play and practice and prepare and develop,” Gillispie said. “We spend a lot of time in that place.”