The tile goes down, panel by panel, starting with one square spot on the floor and expanding outward. The blue sidelines remain ringed by red seats, and the words ‘Freedom Hall’ remain on the scoreboards. But those words don’t mean much after the UK logo is placed down, a dominating visual in the center of the Louisville arena.
For one night, at least, UK blue has taken over Freedom Hall.
“There’s a lot more blue in there than I’ve ever seen,” said Edward Browne, director of public relations and media for the Kentucky State Fair Board.
UK will play Notre Dame in the SEC/Big East Invitational on Wednesday in Freedom Hall, and the accompanying aesthetic makeover of Freedom Hall is a strange one. The blue and the red colors clash, a physical manifestation of a renowned rivalry.
There used to be a Louisville basketball court on Freedom Hall’s floor, but not anymore. The Cardinal logo hasn’t been in place for a few months, now. But the recent absence doesn’t diminish the feeling that the giant ‘UK’ in the middle of the floor is invading cherished ground.
“We’ve had some fans come by and take a look at it,” Browne said. “It’s been in good nature, and they’ve been pleasant. But they all say how different it looks now.”
UK has a long tradition of playing in Freedom Hall during the year to allow fans who don’t make it to Rupp Arena to watch a Cats game. But this is the first time, according to Brown, that the blue logo has graced the longtime Louisville arena.
“There was a lot of interest in what was happening,” Browne said. “People were wondering if it was really going to happen, you know – putting a UK floor down in Freedom Hall? That created a lot of buzz. People aren’t used to seeing it.”
Louisville basketball, of course, has vacated their old premises for the new Yum! Center. Browne said the fact that Louisville no longer plays in Freedom Hall may have enabled the makeover.
“There will be a UK basketball game inside Freedom Hall,” Browne said, a perfect contradiction if he’s ever heard one. “We’re here to make it happen.”