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Lexington Transforms Convention Center, Arena in Time for Post Pandemic Demand

Expansion and renovation brings more than 200,000 square feet of meeting and event space and 20k seating capacity

A $275-million convention center expansion and arena renovation in Lexington, Ky., has begun a phased opening. Central Bank Center (formerly Lexington Center) opened this spring, and Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center is scheduled to complete its transformation in spring 2022, marking full completion of the project.

In addition to expanding exhibit space from 66,000 to 100,000 square feet, the project increased the convention center’s ballroom space from 17,600 to 24,330 square feet with three rooms. The center also offers more than 29,000 square feet of meeting space with 14 rooms and 44,000 square feet of club and flexible space.

In all, the convention center offers more than 200,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

The redesign of Rupp Arena, home court of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team and a concert venue featuring past artists such as Justin Timberlake and Garth Brooks, includes new chair back seats (replacing bleachers) in its upper sections. Total seating capacity is approximately 20,000. The arena also will offer about 50,000 square feet of UK Hospitality Club space, expanded concourses and new sustainability features targeting LEED certification.

UK Athletics has unveiled the new Rupp Arena Virtual Venue platform, which allows attendees to see 360-degree views from various seat locations, compare sight lines and see the amenities associated with each seat location.

The expansion and renovation, designed by Los Angeles-based NBBJ Architects and Lexington-based EOP Architects, also features interior and exterior upgrades in a light-filled architectural design.

The Central Bank Center is adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Lexington and walking distance to more than 100 restaurants and bars.

“There are 500 different national organizations that conduct meetings somewhere every year,” Bill Owen, president of Lexington Center Corporation, told local news channel WKYT. “Because of what we’ve experienced the last year, competition is really fierce, VisitLex will tell you that,” Owen said. “But we’re competing with a brand new product, so that’s maybe one of the things that’s the silver lining around the cloud.”