Kentucky basketball is still getting a new court. Here’s when to expect it back in Rupp.

The wait for a new basketball court in Rupp Arena will continue through the summer.

Kentucky won’t be playing on its new home floor this season.

Brian Sipe, the general manager of Central Bank Center, which includes Rupp Arena, told the Herald-Leader that the Wildcats’ new basketball court will not arrive in time for the conclusion of the 2023-24 season, which means UK will play its final two home games on the current surface.

Kentucky hosts Arkansas on Saturday before its regular-season home finale against Vanderbilt on March 6.

The current playing surface was first installed in 2001 and was due to be replaced this season. That transition happened for Kentucky’s Dec. 2 home game against UNC Wilmington, but after just two games — one each for the UK men’s and women’s teams — the new court was deemed unsuitable for competition.

John Ficks, Global Sales and Marketing Manager at Robbins Sports Surfaces, told the Herald-Leader on Dec. 14 that his company made the joint decision with UK officials that the court would be replaced. Ficks said Rupp Arena officials raised concerns with Robbins, which immediately dispatched inspectors to Lexington to look over the court.

“And when we looked at it, we agreed with them and made the decision to replace the floor,” he said. “This is just an unfortunate situation. And, frankly, I’ve done this for 30 years, and this is the first time I can think of that we’ve ever done anything like this.”

Ficks said that Robbins Sports Surfaces would handle the full cost of the replacement, and there would be no added expenses on Rupp Arena’s end. Sipe told the Herald-Leader in November that the price tag on the new court was a little more than $200,000.

At the time the court was recalled, it was unclear how long it would take to construct and ship a new court to Lexington, but the door was left open for the playing surface to be installed later this season, if it was completed in time.

Sipe told the Herald-Leader this week that there was not yet a specific date of arrival for the new court, but that it wouldn’t be ready by next week.

Rupp Arena will also host the Kentucky high school basketball state tournaments (girls, March 13-16; boys, March 20-23) as well as serve as a regional site for The Basketball Tournament, which will be played in Lexington on July 19-24 and include a team featuring former UK standout Eric Bledsoe.

Sipe said those events are scheduled to be played on the current Rupp Arena court, and the new playing surface will debut with Kentucky’s 2024-25 season. The Wildcats typically hold their Big Blue Madness event in Rupp in mid-October — as well as two home exhibition games — before the start of the regular season.

Kentucky played UNC Wilmington in Rupp Arena on Dec. 2, the debut of the team’s new basketball court. The court lasted only one men’s and one women’s game after the surface was deemed not up to playing standards.
Kentucky played UNC Wilmington in Rupp Arena on Dec. 2, the debut of the team’s new basketball court. The court lasted only one men’s and one women’s game after the surface was deemed not up to playing standards.

Will the new Rupp court look the same?

The one-and-done new court for this season will hold a place in UK basketball infamy. The Wildcats suffered a shocking upset loss to UNC Wilmington in the court’s debut Dec. 2. The UK women’s team also dropped its only game on the playing surface — a 76-57 loss to Minnesota on Dec. 6.

Despite the result of those two games, the court itself — made of Northern Hard Maple from Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan — was the subject of rave reviews from Kentucky fans.

The current court has often been maligned by fans for its “bumper sticker” logos near midcourt and checkerboard patterns on the baselines and sidelines.

The design of the new court that debuted for the UNC Wilmington game featured a wood stain outline of the state of Kentucky that stretched across more than half of the playing surface — a particular point of praise from fans — as well as more discreet logos near center court. The baselines and sidelines featured a solid “Kentucky Blue” paint job, as opposed to the checkerboard pattern. Markers honoring late UK basketball legends Cawood Ledford and Bill Keightley were also carried over to the new playing surface.

Sipe said that while Rupp Arena had paid for the new court as part of its contractual agreement with UK, the design itself was a collaboration between UK Athletics and Robbins Sports Surfaces, which also built the Wildcats’ current court and has supplied playing surfaces for more than a dozen NBA teams.

Nathan Schwake, the UK associate athletics director for marketing and licensing, told the Herald-Leader that the visual design elements for the replacement court will remain exactly the same as the one that was delivered to Rupp Arena earlier this season.

The court that debuts next season will be the fourth in the building’s nearly 50-year history.

Rupp Arena opened in 1976, and its original maple court was replaced prior to the 2001-02 season. That’s the surface that remains in Rupp today, with the court that debuted in December being the arena’s third playing surface.

The center court area of the original playing surface is on display outside the entrance to Rupp Arena, and Sipe told the Herald-Leader this week that the current court is still slated to be cut into pieces and sold to fans, once the new court is in place.

The Wildcats’ matchup with Vanderbilt next week will go down as the final UK game played on the surface.

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