A move that would have once seemed unthinkable — downsizing the seating capacity of Rupp Arena — is now one basketball season from occurring.
One of the costs of the long-overdue enhancements in fan comfort for those who sit in Rupp's upper level will be a substantial drop in overall seating capacity.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
From some 23,500, Rupp will shrink to a capacity of around 20,500 once the new chair-back seating is added for the 2019-2020 season.
Even with the downsizing, the Rupp renovation is a move in the right direction.
It will, however, hit some UK fans square in their pride.
In the 42 years UK has played in Rupp Arena, it has led the nation in attendance 28 times, including 20 of the past 23 seasons.
Kentucky's status as the perennial leader in men's college basketball attendance will obviously be harder — though, I suspect, not impossible — to attain in a smaller Rupp Arena.
Presently, only Syracuse in the Carrier Dome (capacity of 33,000 for basketball) plays in a larger venue than Rupp.
Once Rupp Arena is downsized, not only Syracuse but Louisville (22,090), North Carolina (21,750), Tennessee (21,678) and Brigham Young (20,951) will also play in venues with greater seating capacity than Kentucky.
The presence of U of L, UNC and UT on the list of "larger arenas than Kentucky's" will be hard for some in the Big Blue Nation to stomach.
This past season, UK led the nation in attendance (21,875) even though its average crowd size dropped 1,585 from the season before. In fact, last season was the third-least-attended year of Kentucky basketball since Rupp Arena opened in 1976-77.
That suggested that not even Kentucky hoops is immune from national trends that have seen downward pressure on ticket sales to live, major sporting events.
If the market for UK basketball tickets is softening, there is every reason to think the same phenomenon will exist at the other schools with large arenas.
That's why I'm not convinced that playing in a smaller Rupp Arena dooms Kentucky's chances to lead the nation in basketball attendance in future years.
What I do know is those Wildcats fans who have loyally sat on the bleachers in Rupp Arena's upper level for decades — with their neighbors' elbows in their ribs and the feet of the person behind them in their backs — deserve a far better consumer experience.
Even though the chair-back seating will only be added to the sides in Rupp's second deck, not the end zone sections, this renovation will be a massive step toward providing that.
That should be true in the concourses, too.
Smaller overall fan capacity should make for shorter lines to buy the famous Rupp Arena soft-serve ice cream plus other concessions as well as provide less-time-consuming waits to use the restrooms at halftime.
Progress usually comes at a cost, and UK announced that the entire upper arena for Wildcats' men's basketball games will have to be "re-ticketed" due to the renovation.
As was the case when the same process was done at a renovated Commonwealth Stadium (now Kroger Field) in 2015, UK says priority in picking seats will be based on a fan's standing with the K Fund, the fund-raising arm of UK Athletics.
I've never seen the "re-ticketing" of a major college athletics venue that did not lead to ill will. Since this re-ticketing will not impact the Rupp Arena lower-level seats, some of the potential for hard feelings will be diminished.
Presumably, the reductions in available Rupp seating capacity will ultimately come mostly from the student-ticket allotment in the upper level. UK says lower-bowl student seating plus the standing area known as the E-Rupp-tion Zone will not be changed.
There was a time when I would have criticized loudly any lowering of student-ticket levels on idealistic grounds. However, in recent years, the upper-level student sections in Rupp Arena have only sporadically been full.
It's hard to condemn removing tickets from those who have not been using them.
Bottom line: Creating a smaller Rupp Arena may feel like the world turned upside down.
On net, however, it is the smart move for UK basketball and will be a good one for most Kentucky fans.
Mark Story: 859-231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory