High School Basketball

Lesser-known facts about an 'impressive place' called Rupp Arena

North Laurel's Jake Allen grabbed a rebound as his team played Rowan County on Wednesday in the first game of this year's Sweet Sixteen tournament at Rupp Arena. Rowan County won and will play Southwestern at noon Friday. The tourney has been at Rupp all but six times since 1979. after 25 years at Louisville's Freedom Hall.
North Laurel's Jake Allen grabbed a rebound as his team played Rowan County on Wednesday in the first game of this year's Sweet Sixteen tournament at Rupp Arena. Rowan County won and will play Southwestern at noon Friday. The tourney has been at Rupp all but six times since 1979. after 25 years at Louisville's Freedom Hall. Jonathan Palmer

It's annual rite of spring: Thousands of high school sports fans stream through Lexington's Rupp Arena for the PNC/KHSAA State Tournament. This year's Sweet Sixteen, which continues through Saturday, will be no different. But how much do you know about Rupp Arena, also home to the University of Kentucky men's basketball team?

Here's some trivia about the hallowed hall of Bluegrass basketball.

■ Financed by $37 million in bonds, construction began on the Lexington Center complex in 1974.

■ A time capsule was buried in July 1976 in the traffic island at the Vine Street entrance to Lexington Center. It is to be opened on July 4, 2076. There are 107 items inside, ranging from books and photos to a pair of blue jeans.

■ The first concert at Rupp Arena was by Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers, on Oct. 17, 1976. Four people suffered minor injuries at the concert; most twisted ankles trying to get to upper arena seats that, at the time, lacked handrails.

■ The first country act to play Rupp was a double bill of Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, and the first pop/rock concert was by The Doobie Brothers, both in 1976.

■ The average ticket price for a concert when Rupp opened was $6.

■ UK held its first practice ar Rupp on Oct. 26, 1976. Coach Joe B. Hall stepped on the floor and declared, "This is one impressive place."

■ The Cats played their first game Nov. 27, 1976, beating Wisconsin 72-64. Attendance was 23,266. The snack stands ran out of hot dogs by halftime.

■ Rupp Arena was officially dedicated Dec. 11, 1976. Adolph Rupp's blue recliner was positioned at midcourt as UK beat Kansas 90-63.

■ Seven sinks fell off the walls early in that first basketball season. The Wildcats also found themselves blinded by the lights. After the first seven games, UK was hitting only 43 percent from the field. Coach Hall thought the lights were too bright, so Rupp officials had them lowered by 50,000 watts.

■ At its opening in 1976, Rupp Arena was the largest indoor facility built primarily for basketball. Since 1996, when then-UK Coach Rick Pitino suggested that UK build an arena on campus, there has been talk of a new basketball arena. Earlier this year, a task force set forth a plan to overhaul Lexington Center, and Rupp, by 2016.

■ The Sweet Sixteen tournament returned to Lexington in 1979 after a 25-year absence. It had been played in Louisville's Freedom Hall. Lexington's Lafayette beat Christian County, 62-52. Ever since, it has been in Rupp all but six times; the tournaments in 1980, 1988-90, 1992 and 1994 were at Freedom Hall.

■ The NCAA Final Four basketball games were at Rupp in March 1985.

■ All of Rupp's multicolor seats, a sore spot with the Big Blue Nation, were replaced — with blue seats, natch — in August 2002 at a cost of $1.6 million.

Source: Herald-Leader archives

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