Hitting the Kentucky Hardwood (AKA - Rupp Arena)
A lot of people have a bucket list. Some people make it official and write their bucket list down. Others just remember their list and bring the items up in conversation with their family and friends. Betsy and I fall into the latter group, although we may want to actually write some of these bucket list things down. We’re not getting any younger you know! We are more specific and have multiple bucket lists. Since we both have a love and knowledge of sports, one of our lists is what we’ll call a Sports Venue/Event Bucket List. As we travel this great country, we hope to be able to cross some items off of this list. Ok, so mine are mostly basketball related and Betsy’s are mostly baseball related, but there is some variety to each of our lists. Since it’s currently late November and there aren’t many baseball games being played, it’s a convenient time to work on some of the basketball ones.
Since we are calling Campbellsville, KY home for a couple of months, it seemed only natural to investigate the schedules of some of the colleges in the state. Based on team schedules and our work schedules, there were only a couple of games we would be able to attend. There was one or two at the University of Louisville and one or two at the University of Kentucky. The best fit was a Sunday night game at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY against the Dukes of Duquesne University. Rupp Arena is one of the most iconic basketball arenas in the country, so it was definitely on our list. With Rupp Arena as their home since 1976, the Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball program regularly leads the nation in college basketball home attendance, with a capacity of just over 23,000. Four national championship teams at Kentucky have called Rupp Arena home over the past 40 seasons (1978, 1996, 1998, and 2012). Also, for all of our Philly friends, Rupp Arena was the site where an eighth-seeded Villanova coached by Rollie Massimino, won their first national title with a 66–64 victory over Georgetown in the 1985 National Championship game. The game is often cited among the greatest upsets in college basketball history, and is the second biggest point-spread upset in Championship Game history. This Villanova team remains the lowest-seeded team to win the tournament and the game is also notable as the last college game played without a shot clock. Ok, I know that’s too many details for some people, but my basketball junkie friends may enjoy them.
Enough reminiscing. It was just fresh on my mind with Villanova winning the 2016 National Championship. Go Cats! This year’s Kentucky basketball team is very good (Currently ranked #1 in the country as of this writing.), so not a bad team to get to watch in person. Betsy did some ticket research online and found us a couple of seats on the lower level in the corner. When she suggested tickets to the Kentucky vs. Dukes game, my heart skipped a beat. But then I realized she said Dukes (as in the Duquense nickname), not Duke, the preeminent college basketball program in the country. (Ok, so that last comment may not be an opinion shared by everyone.)
After paying the $35 / ticket price, plus the mandatory processing fees, we headed out the trailer door to Lexington. It was about an hour and a half drive to Lexington, and since we were headed to a more metropolitan area than Campbellsville, we combined our trip with stops at Costco and Aldi for some food supplies and gas. The scheduled tip-off was 9:00 pm, late for a Sunday evening, but perfect for our current lifestyle of staying up late and getting up late. Rupp Arena is situated in downtown Lexington and is actually part of an arena/convention center/hotel complex, which also included a small food court and mall. Ok, the mall was mostly made up of several stores selling U of Kentucky paraphernalia, but a mall-like place. After getting a bite to eat in the food court we waited for the lines to die down entering the arena and made our way to our seats about an hour before the game. Yes, I’m a basketball dork and I enjoy watching the teams shoot and warm up before the game. Thanks Betsy for amusing me and joining me long before the game started.
Betsy and I normally do not put a great deal of thought into what we are wearing when we go to a sporting event, but we quickly realized we should have worn something blue, preferably with a K on it. To make matters worse, I had on a red sweatshirt with a navy blue vest over it (Not the Kentucky blue!), which happens to be, you guessed it, Duquesne Dukes colors. Oh well, with Betsy in a purple sweatshirt, we were two of about 25 people out of 23,500 not in U of Kentucky colors. The group in front of us was the family of one of the Duquesne players and appreciated the fact that we would not heckle them during the game. They were from the Pittsburgh area and their son got on the floor at Rupp Arena for the final 17 seconds. Not a big deal to some people, but they videotaped every one of those 17 seconds. The in-game experience was more NBA-like than college-like, with dancers, fan contests, huge video boards with replays and highlights.
All in all, it was a fun night out. It wasn’t a close game (Kentucky won 93-59), but it was cool to watch a really talented team play in a great college basketball arena. Check one off the list, many more to come!