Crowds expected back downtown as Rupp Arena goes to 100% capacity come June 11

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 18:36:32-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The familiar roar of thousands of people cheering at Rupp Arena is set to make a comeback.

Acts by Jim Gaffigan, Eric Church, and Jason Aldean are scheduled for this year. They will be after June 11 when Rupp Arena goes to 100% capacity.

With the arena able to seat more than 20,000 people, a surge of business at downtown spots during future events is expected.

"It's super exciting!" Bluegrass Hospitality Association President Pam Avery said.

She said full capacity at Rupp will add to the surge the hotel industry has seen.

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According to VisitLEX, hotel occupancy was at 16% in April 2020 when COVID-19 restrictions were in place. In April 2021, occupancy hit 60%. Avery argued, however, that the influx of guests may be coming on a little too fast because staffing levels are at about 30% of what they were pre-pandemic. She also said there are still product shortages.

"You can't even get bath towels from your vendors right now," Avery said.

Even so, hotels are embracing the challenge.

"We're really looking forward to being able to have all these people in Lexington again so it's good," she said.

In addition to hotels, Avery said restaurants and bars downtown are also expected to benefit from a full capacity at Rupp Arena.

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LexLive is hoping to benefit as well, especially since the massive entertainment center is just across the street.

"The whole plan in terms of this geographic location was to be able to capitalize on the events at Rupp and everything that’s going on downtown," LexLive Director of Operations, Bruce Wren said. "It’s been a long time coming but we feel like it’s really going to benefit us.”

Wren added that he hopes people will come for a drink, meal, game of bowling, or movie before and after they attend events at Rupp. It's a synergistic relationship they hope to have once events really start to pick up for summer.