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Could Rupp Arena Be on Its Way Out?

Rupp Arena (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

What are the characteristics of a “legend”? First, I think a legend can be anyone or anything. John Wayne was a legend. The Ford Mustang is a legend. “I Love Lucy” is a legend. I wanted to make sure you understood my personal definition of a legend, because I’m going to throw a legendary structure into that mix—Rupp Arena, home of the UK Wildcats. And why did I ask the question that opened the post? Because I think, sometimes, legends must retire or be retired. See, I’ve heard rumblings and seen stories and I think we’re headed in that direction with regards to Lexington’s legendary sports facility.

THOSE OTHER WILDCATS

There’s a lot of great history that comes with Rupp. It’s not just been home to the winningest college basketball program 0f all time. There have been some memorable games played at Rupp Arena between teams not even named the Kentucky Wildcats. Go back to 1985. That was the year that Rupp hosted the NCAA Final Four and National Championship. It was also the year the 8th-seeded Villanova Wildcats upset the heavily favored Georgetown Hoyas. ‘Nova is still the lowest seeded team to ever win the title.

HOOSIERS WERE A WILDCAT’S BEST FRIEND

What about 2002? This is the one I will never forget. You see, I hate the Duke Blue Devils. Okay? There, I said it. Some people call it silly; I call it sports. Don’t like ‘em. Never have. In 2002, Duke was the favorite to win the championship. But karma decided to rear its welcome head. The Blue Devils had to play a Sweet 16 game in Rupp Arena that year. Their opponent was–how ’bout these apples?–Kentucky rival Indiana. The Hoosiers were a 5-seeded team that everyone felt was doomed from the get-go. So here it is: Duke vs. Indiana in Rupp Arena. The gods were screaming in our ears. So what happened? Well the Hoosiers did Big Blue Nation the biggest favor they could ever have possibly done. They beat the Devils by one point and sent them packing–on the Wildcats’ turf. For me, the Kentucky-Indiana rivalry has never felt the same. I couldn’t muster enmity toward the Hoosiers if my life depended on it.

So, it’s a little poignant to think about Rupp Arena no longer being the home of the Kentucky Wildcats–and it’s far from gone, yet. But the old building IS in its mid-30s. And you have to know that any new arena in Lexington that will be home to the ‘Cats will be spectacular beyond belief. And you must also have to be thinking that a certain KFC Yum! Center up the road–say 65 miles or so–might have had a little bit to do with it.

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