Lexington, Ky: How Rupp Arena, convention center was built

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‘A new way for a new century’

A $310 million expansion and renovation of Lexington’s Central Bank Center, which includes Rupp Arena, will have a grand reopening on April 21.

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Lexington’s downtown Rupp Arena and Central Bank Center is going to have a grand reopening on April 21.

There’s a lot to take in of the $310 million project that began in October 2018.

But go all the way back to the beginning: This was a construction project that began June 22, 1974.

That’s when an audience gathered at Main Street and South Broadway, sang “My Old Kentucky Home” and released hundreds of balloons skyward at the groundbreaking of the $46 million civic center.

A little over two years later at the grand opening of Rupp Arena from Oct. 7 to 10, 1976, the Lexington Center was a bright new gem in Lexington’s crown. A five-fold operation, the Lexington Center was: the convention-exposition hall, Rupp Arena, a shopping mall, the 17-story Hyatt Regency Hotel, and the Lexington Opera House. According to a 1976 article in the Herald-Leader, financing for Lexington Center and Rupp Arena was complicated, but it involved $66 million in private and public funding. Most of that, $50.9 million, was public money.

Construction photos in the video above show how it was built and the lasting imprint the legendary arena, convention and exhibition space and hotel has left on downtown Lexington.

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An aerial photo from April 1975 shows the construction site of Rupp Arena, left, and what will become Lexington Center, the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Triangle Park. John C. Wyatt Staff file photo

This story was originally published April 14, 2022 10:18 AM.

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