Jen Smith on UK Football

Could there be a Rupp Arena name change? ‘We’re not going to mess with that,’ Barnhart says

Kentucky’s football stadium got a new name Monday, but Rupp Arena isn’t going to get any name alterations anytime soon.

“The Rupp name is an iconic name in terms of what it means to college basketball and what it means to this program,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said when asked about it after the school announced that Commonwealth Stadium would now be called Kroger Field, according to a long-term deal with the grocery chain.

“In terms of what we do in recruiting and the people we bring into our program, I think when you say ‘Rupp Arena,’ it has a special feel to it that I just don’t think — I know we’re not going to mess with that,” Barnhart said. “It’s something that’s so important to us and our athletic department.”

Kentucky’s latest long-term agreement with Lexington Center Corp., which keeps UK at Rupp through 2033, has specific provisions involving the naming rights of the surrounding Lexington Center.

The Lexington Convention Center shall have the right to license or market the name of the complex and facility and can incorporate it into signs in the facility.

In the letter of intent, both parties agreed that the current name of the venue will remain Rupp Arena, but it might be included in a longer name, such as “Rupp Arena at ABC Center.”

Bill Owen, LCC executive director, said the contract is for 15 years, but it won’t take effect until after next year’s basketball season. In that agreement, JMI will take over media rights within Rupp, but the contract will pay the convention center $4.75 million a year for those rights.

The convention center has received some proposals for naming rights, Owen said, but they are in the discussion phase.

When asked what was different about changing the name on the 44-year-old stadium and the 41-year-old downtown venue, Barnhart said:

“Our football stadium, we’ve continued to sort of revamp that and remold that a little. And I don’t think we’re done,” he said of Kroger Field (nee Commonwealth Stadium), which has undergone several facelifts and renovations.

“We’ll continue to do things that give us the best chance to invest in our program. … They’re two different facilities, and not every one we’ll treat the same. And that is an iconic facility.”