After breaking ground in the Spring of 1999, construction began on the new downtown arena funded by MAPS, Oklahoma City's visionary capital improvement program to finance new and upgraded sports, entertainment, cultural and convention facilities with a one-cent sales tax. The 581,000-square-foot facility, which can seat more than 20,000, was designed to meet National Hockey League requirements. The state-of-the art venue, which was completed at a cost of $89.2 million, opened its doors on June 8, 2002. The Grand Opening Celebration included a dedication ceremony led by former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, as well as a special “Open House” event for the entire community.
Chesapeake Energy Arena (formerly the Ford Center & Oklahoma City Arena) is owned by the SMG, which is headquartered in Philadelphia and provides facility services to over 200 public assembly facilities including arenas, stadiums, performing arts theatres and convention and trade centers. With facilities across America, and in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, Europe and the Middle East, SMG controls over 1.5 million entertainment seats worldwide and manages more than ten million feet of exhibition space.
Chesapeake Energy Arena is a 586,000 square foot facility featuring four seating levels and a press level with a maximum seating capacity of 20,817 for a concert set in-the-round. Located between the 6,300 Oklahoman Level (or lower level) seats and the 7,700 Oklahoman Bedlam Level (or upper level) seats, is the Cox Communications Club and Suite Level which features 3,380 club seats, as well as 7 Oklahoma State Park Suites and 48 private suites.
Since opening its doors, Chesapeake Energy Arena has hosted almost 500 events with attendance of more than 4.9 million. Home to the Oklahoma City Blazers (Central Hockey League) and the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz (arenafootball2), the Chesapeake Energy Arena also served as the temporary home of the New Orleans Hornets (2005-06 and 2006-07 NBA Seasons) and plays host to major concerts, family events, ice shows, sporting events and the latest in show stopping entertainment.
During its first five years, Chesapeake Energy Arena has hosted a number of sold-out events, including concert performances by the Britney Spears, Cher, George Strait, Toby Keith, the Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney, Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill and Tool. Not surprisingly, Chesapeake Energy Arena made Pollstar’s list of Top Ten Concert Venues for ticket sales in North America during its first year of operation. Chesapeake Energy Arena again made the Pollstar charts when it ranked 14th in the United States and 22nd worldwide in total concert ticket sales for the first quarter of 2006. The top 5 grossing shows to be held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena featured performances by Paul McCartney, Elton John and Billy Joel, the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles.
Major sporting events have included both NHL and NBA preseason games, as well as the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship Midwest Regional First and Second Rounds in 2003 and 2005, and the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Wrestling Championships in 2006. The Chesapeake Energy Arena and neighboring Cox Business Services Convention Center also hosted Oklahoma City’s first Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships in 2007. The Big 12 has since announced that the Basketball Championships will return to Oklahoma City in 2009. Meanwhile, Chesapeake Energy Arena is also scheduled to host the NCAA Women’s Basketball Regional in both 2008 and 2009.
A number of the other major events hosted by the Chesapeake Energy Arena have also been televised nationally and/or internationally, including the All-College Basketball Classic, WWE SmackDown! and WWE RAW, the Mission Oklahoma City with Billy Graham Crusade, the And 1 Mix Tape Tour, the McDonald's All-American High School Basketball Game and several PBR and IPRA events including Bullnanza, the International Finals Rodeo and the first annual PBR $1,000,000 Challenger Tour Championships.
Family shows and other special events have had a significant presence in the Ford Center’s schedule over the last five years. In fact, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey was the first event to play the Chesapeake Energy Arena in June of 2002. The Greatest Show on Earth then returned for a series of June performances in both 2004 and 2006. But, it was not the only “circus” to make repeat appearances. Cirque du Soleil DELIRIUM delivered astounding performances in both 2006 and 2007. The Harlem Globetrotters, Monster Jam, Sesame Street Live, Lipizzaner Stallions and The Wiggles have also made multiple appearances on the Chesapeake Energy Arena calendar, as have holiday performances by Mannheim Steamroller, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and the Gaither Homecoming.
Source: Chesapeake Energy Arena
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
April 14, 2006 - The horrific devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 did huge damage to the City of New Orleans. Not only was much of the population uprooted, but significant damage was done to the city's two sports venues, the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Arena. For the New Orleans Hornets it was clear that they would not be able to start the season in their familiar digs, so it was up to the franchise to search for a new home. The solution? Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with a state of the art new arena suitable for a NBA franchise, a sports minded population base eager to embrace professional sports, and for the NBA, a new market to test the waters. After one season playing in Oklahoma City, it is pretty much accepted that the NO/OKC Hornets have been a smashing success here... packed houses, a buzz on the streets, and putting the city and the Ford Center into the national consciousness as a major sports city.
|Ford Center Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 9|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 5|
|Bonus: Loud City|| 2|
|Bonus: Bricktown|| 2|
|Bonus: Invocation|| 2|
|Total Score|| 67|
Getting to the Venue
Finding the Ford Center is a snap - it can be seen right off of the I-40 and is about a mile west of I-35 which runs N-S. A parking ramp is adjacent to the arena, and plenty of surface parking can be found in any direction with short walking distance to the arena. Parking fees can be found for $5-$6 just a block away, so that is pretty reasonable. A quaint trolley runs through the downtown core and Bricktown and stops right at the arena so that is also a cool way to ride to the game. Meters aren't monitored after 6pm so if you can snag a spot then your parking is free.
Outside the Venue
The Ford Center is located on the south side of downtown Oklahoma City, immediately adjacent to the Cox Convention Center, which used to be their downtown arena, before that structure was refurbished for convention space. The downtown area is clean, bright and safe, and office and hotel buildings are abundant off to the north. Right next door is a brand new Courtyard by Marriott Hotel which is really striking. But the best area here in downtown OKC is Bricktown, just two blocks east of the Ford Center. The Bricktown neighborhood is a collection of refurbished warehouses mixed with new construction, and plenty of nightclubs, restaurants, patio cafes, retail stores, a new Bass Pro superstore, and the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, a splendid 13,000 seat minor league baseball venue. A canal winds through this neighborhood, sunk below street grade and offering water taxis and paddleboat rides. All connected via old time brick paved streets. An awesome party and tourist destination!
Arena Exterior and Concourses
The exterior of the Ford Center is of a yellow brick façade with two major entrances facing West Reno Street. A statue sits near the west entry celebrating the 1989 Olympic Festival that took place here in Oklahoma City. Once inside the venue one either heads straightforward up the stairs/escalators to the club/upper deck or swings a left/right depending on entry to the arena’s main concourse. Ads from the Ford Motor Company adorn the walls of the two main entry ways.
On game day West Reno is closed off to traffic and serves as a place for fans entertainment with live music, refreshments and a bookmobile for the kids, of all things. The scene is an exuberant and pleasant one.
The signature feature of both upper and lower concourses are a series of murals depicting many of the things that made Oklahoma famous. Pioneer wagons, cowboy hats and so much more. These murals which dot the floor of the lower concourse and emblazon the ceiling of the upper level, greatly enhancing the look of what are otherwise somewhat dark and bland concourses.
The bowl is split into two levels sandwiching a club/suite level with total seating capacity at just under twenty thousand. Hovering above center court is a four sided video board with room for the score and basic stats of players currently on the court. The board also has an analog clock on each of the four sides, a nice touch.
An LED board surrounds the seating bowl and enlivens the look of the arena. Out of town scores are occasionally shown above the center court portion of the ribbon board.
Another detail to mention is the relatively low ceiling in the seating bowl. Unlike so many other places with an arched or domed ceiling, here in OKC it is flat and possibly is a reason why the venue’s decibel meter can reach ear splitting levels.
A lot of attention was given to make an interesting and varied concession menu happen here at the Ford Center. To begin with, the Jackson Square stand offers a New Orleans style fare including Po Boys and Gumbo. On the upper deck are two grills commemorating the big college programs – Sooner Grille and Cowboys Grill (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State Universities). The grills offer various half pound burgers including the signature Onion Burger. A Potato World stand offers baked potatoes with all the trimmings and we even found fresh made candied apples. Add all this to the usual fare and it is all good stuff. On the lower level there is an exclusive restaurant named the York Ice House with sit down dining, which is available to season ticket holders only.
No true main “team store” but there are a pair of smaller shops on either sideline in the lower level. Can’t find what you want there? Trust us there are plenty of other merchandise stands all throughout the facility.
The club level here offers an upscale concourse and two premium restaurants, the Sunset Bistro and the Victory Buffet. There is an additional restaurant located on the main concourse called the York Icehouse, which is open to any season ticket holder. Suites and seven larger "state park suites" are also located along the 200 club level.
The franchise's history spans three cities - Charlotte, New Orleans and Oklahoma City, so it would make sense to say that it would be a tall order to carry the team's accomplishments and player icons into this new venue. Gratefully the OKC front office has not manufactured some dumb accomplishment to hang in the rafters. The only banners up in the ceiling pay tribute to "Loud City", exhorting the fans in the upper deck to be noisy and crazy.
Slam Dunks, Assists, Fouls...
Slam Dunk - To "Jackson Square", the concession stand named for the landmark location in New Orleans. Here they are offering fare from the Big Easy such as Shrimp Po-Boys, Gumbo and Cajun Fries. A great tribute to the city that shares this franchise!
Assist - to the fans in the balcony, which is dubbed “Loud City” and they mean it! Thundersticks are passed out to seat holders up there and that just adds to the “Bedlam”. No wonder the upper deck is also named “Bedlam Level”.
Foul - We took advantage of a promotion which gave us a Love’s gas station $5 gas card, which we collected at the team store. When we tried to redeem the card at the pumps, we found it wasn’t activated. Boo!
Slam Dunk - to the fans of OK City in general. When this team escaped the horrors of New Orleans there was absolutely no idea as to how the city would react and how many fans would come to see the NBA in a predominantly college sports town. Boy oh boy they blew away all expectations! Over half of the Ford Center’s 35 games have been sellouts and the venues is being highly touted as being one of the NBA’s loudest venues right up there with Arco Arena in Sactown. The scene here is eerily reminiscent of, dare we say it – Charlotte 1988?
Assist - to the in game entertainment staff in the Ford Center. There were some innovative stunts and games played during breaks in the action. A beach volleyball game between sections, using an actual decibel meter to measure crowd noise.
Assist - to the profuse thanks by the team to the fans, the last home game was dubbed “the FANale” and featured several thank yous from players and manangement on the scoreboard. Also the team wore a special ”OKLAHOMA CITY” jerseys on this night(which Peter has one of) as a thanks for everything gesture.
Foul - to the USRT karma. In what was basically an elimination game for the Hornets and Jazz the Hornets came up a point short as Utah came up with a some critical offensive rebounds resulting in their game winning points for a 105-104 final.
Make no mistake - Oklahoma City has been a wonderful caretaker for this franchise. Despite not making the playoffs, eager fans have snapped up tickets, and have created a real love affair with this team. The question now becomes - does owner George Shinn and the NBA make this move a permanent one, or does the team return to a city that is still minus 75% of its population? The Hornets will play 35 home games in OKC in 2006-07; from there the league commissioner says that the plan is to return the franchise to New Orleans and honor the lease there. But the leaders in Oklahoma City are saying "not so fast" and argue that their city is very much deserving of an NBA franchise, and clearly has their sites on keeping the Hornets for good. When the suggestion was brought up that sturggling teams in Portland or Seattle might make ideal relocation candidates to OKC, a Hornets front office official replied "I don't think Oklahoma City can support two franchises."
Nonetheless, we give props to Oklahomans for their warmth and hospitality, for a pretty good venue in the Ford Center, and for creating a special environment to enjoy NBA hoops. Attending a Hornets game in OKC is a special and enjoyable experience... we wish you folks the best of luck!
OKC PLANNING FOR ARENA UPGRADES
March 5, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
Oklahoma City, Okla. - Planned improvements at the Ford Center will cost $85.8 million,
according to a report to the Oklahoma City Council.
The preliminary report was on the second phase of upgrades, which will include new locker
rooms, a restaurant and club, suites, a main entry and other improvements intended to put the Ford Center on par with other NBA arenas. The upgrades are being made to accommodate the Thunder
which moved into the building from Seattle.
Voters approved a sales tax a year ago to pay for improvements to the arena, along with a new
practice facility. Council members also got a look at preliminary schematics for the practice facility.
Jim Reynolds, project manager with The Benham Cos., said the new restaurant will be on the
lower level, where the locker rooms are now.
"In addition to the restaurant, there will be seven new ... bunker suites," he said. "These will be various sizes and will have access for people who have seats on the floor and also to the club
Bunker suites don't have a direct view of the court, but will give fans who are willing to pay for them a lounge before and after the game and during halftime.
Bunker suites also will be in other areas. Other improvements in this part of the project are
upgraded concession areas, a new scoreboard, a warm-up court, a main entry along what one day
will be a downtown boulevard, seats with more leg room and a family fun zone.
Reynolds said the fun zone, with entertainment and food for children, originally was planned
for the upper levels, above the warm-up court, but has now been relocated down to the main entry.
The next step is for the council to approve final plans for the project. Construction is scheduled to begin in May. (The Oklahoman)
UPGRADES PLANNED TO OKLAHOMA CITY ARENA
April 16, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
Oklahoma City, Okla. - Before the NBA Thunder returns to the Ford Center for its second
season, the building will undergo $60 million in upgrades.
The work includes upgraded scoreboards and floors, 48 new box seating areas and better locker
Construction bids will be accepted in early May and work will start after that. No concerts or
sporting events will be held in the Ford Center until renovation concludes in late September.
The most significant addition is four- and six-seat loge boxes on both ends in the club sections.
The loge boxes will seat six or eight fans and are available for year-round entertainment. For
the same price as an eighth row Thunder courtside level season ticket, loge boxes - at prices of
$12,375 per seat (in six-seat boxes) or $14,045 per seat (in four-seats boxes) - include tickets to
most major concerts, family shows and all Thunder games.
The most lavish addition is 11 bunker suites, many purchased by the Thunder organization's
founding partners. Bunker suites are private areas in the ground-level hallways.
Another feature is hydraulic systems being installed on the first few rows on both sides of the
court and at both ends. Hydraulics will push seats below the floor, allowing Ford Center officials to
easily reconfigure the arena from NBA games to Blazers hockey games and concerts.
This summer's renovations are the second of three phases. Minor alterations were made before
the Thunder's inaugural season.
The final phase, in the summer of 2010, will use the remaining $54 million to add 300,000
square feet to the building. The biggest items next summer will be a new grand entrance on the
southwest corner and even more space added to the Thunder's locker room.
FORD CENTER UPGRADES TRIMMED BACK
March 18, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Oklahoma City, Okla. - Oklahoma City officials are asking their architects to cut back $6
million in planning upgrades to the Ford Center arena because of lagging sales tax collections.
The 15-month sales tax that began Jan. 1, 2009, was estimated to bring in $121 million. The economic downturn caused sales tax collections to fall, special projects manager Tom Anderson
The tax, which ends March 31, is now expected to bring in $102 million. The city is supplementing that amount with $9 million in use taxes that accompanied the Ford Center sales tax.
The arena cost $89 million when it was built and opened in 2002.
The city council voted to pay architects Sink and Combs Dethlefts $100,000 to make changes to the designs for the project, including eliminating a $6 million warm-up court and making other cosmetic changes.
Anderson said the changes also will allow for some Òbells and whistlesÓ the team and city wanted after the original plans were approved. In particular, a big screen will now be included on the Ford Center's exterior.
The changes are mostly in areas fans won't notice, Anderson said. A special entrance and changing area for arena employees is being eliminated and office space for Thunder staff is being redesigned.
April 29, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Oklahoma City officials have trimmed back their plans for upgrades to the Ford Center. The latest phase of the improvements is an estimated $2.8 million project for new office space, concession stands and rest rooms. The city will accept bids on the project May 18, with work starting in June. The council agreed in March to hire an architect to scale back the Ford Center renovations after revenue for the 15-month sales tax funding the project came in about $19 million short. The city will use $9 million from a use tax which accompanied the sales tax, along with savings from an accompanying NBA practice facility, to reduce the shortfall.
OKLAHOMA CITY LOOKING CLOSER AT ARENA RENOVATION BUDGET
June 3, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Oklahoma City, Okla. - Revenues for a planned renovation of the Ford Center in Oklahoma
City will come in about $9 million below previous estimates. New projections call for the one-cent sales tax that voters approved to generate about $112 million.
The 15-month sales tax actually produced about $103.6 million in funds for the renovation. The city also can draw from an additional $8.4 million tax fund to cover part of the shortfall, but the board has been working for months to scale back the upgrades of the Ford Center and a new Thunder practice facility to keep from overspending.
"We want to deliver the quality we promised but I think we have to look at the money we've got here as an iron cap," said City Councilman Patrick Ryan, the oversite board's chairman. "There's no more money. Our source of funding has ended. I think we'd be on thin ground if we could even go back to the City Council and ask for additional money."
Estimates now call for the city to spend about $91.7 million on the Ford Center upgrades instead of just under $100 million, and $14.4 million on the practice facility instead of $20 million.
The arena renovation will continue this summer with a series of minor updates to concession stands, restrooms, a green room and the offices of the arena's management company. Some of those projects could begin in the next 10 days.
Construction on a final phase that will feature a grand entrance will begin during next season and require the closure of the arena after the season is over. That phase, estimated to cost about $39 million, is scheduled for completion prior to the 2011-12 NBA season.
The practice facility is expected to be finished by Sept. 10.
OKC THUNDER SEEKS NEW NAMING SPONSOR
September 9, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
Oklahoma City, Okla. - The Oklahoma City Thunder are seeking a new naming rights partner
for their arena, according to The Oklahoman.
The original naming rights agreement came in 2001, when the Oklahoma Ford Dealers agreed
to pay $8.1 million over 15 years, the newspaper said.
That contract allowed an NBA franchise to terminate the existing naming rights agreement if a
team came to Oklahoma City, which occurred when the Seattle SuperSonics relocated here in July 2008.
The Thunder previously had discussions with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers, but a new agreement could not be reached. As a result, the Thunder officially has terminated the existing naming rights agreement and entered a period of negotiations with other potential partners, the newspaper said.
Thunder officials said in a statement the team would have no further comment until those negotiations are complete. The building will continue to be called the Ford Center.
October 28, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures
The name of the Thunder's arena has officially been changed to the Oklahoma City Arena, according to The Oklahoman. A previous deal with local Ford dealers was terminated by the dealers when the Thunder came to town. The team is working on finding a new sponsor.
NAMING RIGHTS RESOLD TO OKLAHOMA CITY ARENA
July 28, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Oklahoma City, Okla. - Chesapeake Energy Arena is the new name of Oklahoma City's
downtown arena formerly known as the Ford Center under a new naming rights agreement jointly announced by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chesapeake Energy Corp.
Under the 12-year naming rights agreement, The Oklahoman said Chesapeake will pay the Thunder $3 million the first year, with a three percent annual escalation clause for each year, thereafter. The agreement includes Chesapeake branding throughout the building including on the basketball court, prominent premium placement on the high-definition scoreboard and new state-of-the-art interior and exterior digital signage.
Most of the signage is expected to be in place by the start of the Thunder's 2011-12 season.
Martha A. Burger, Chesapeake's senior vice president-Human and Corporate Resources, said her corporation is thrilled with the new agreement.
"The Thunder represents the values we embrace at Chesapeake - integrity, teamwork, commitment, hard work and service," Burger said. "The naming rights also provide a powerful natural gas branding opportunity for our company, particularly when you consider the national, and even global, reach of the Thunder."
The Thunder received the rights to most proceeds from the naming rights agreement under the deal it reached with the city to bring the NBA team to Oklahoma City from Seattle.
The city will continue to receive $409,000 a year plus an escalator amount tied to the Consumer Price Index. The amount the city receives is based on its original naming rights contract with Oklahoma Ford Dealers before an NBA team arrived in Oklahoma City.
NBA LOCKOUT COULD POSE PROBLEMS IN OKLAHOMA CITY
October 6, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Oklahoma City, Okla. - As $93.1 million of taxpayer-funded construction continues at
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City faces the prospect of a season without the headline tenant residents counted on when they approved taxing themselves to pay for it.
The NBA and the NBA players' union entered a critical stage of negotiations last week as a work stoppage enters its fourth month and closes in on the start of the regular season Nov. 1.
But even one missed game could be costly, according to The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City's Executive Manager for Special Projects Tom Anderson told the newspaper officials estimate each Thunder home game pumps about $1.28 million into the city's economy, and that doesn't count ticket sales or wages for team and arena workers.
The city had a boost in direct spending of about $66.6 million last season for the 52 total home games, including preseason and playoffs, based on that estimate.
Still, local officials say a missed season would only be a bump in the road financially for a city that has plenty of momentum even without the surging success and popularity of its NBA team.
Each missed game likely would mean a little bit less tax revenue for Oklahoma City, said Doug Dowler, the city's associate budget director. But because the city is already ahead of projected sales tax revenue growth of four percent for this fiscal year, losing Thunder home games would likely only make a small dent in Oklahoma City's robust numbers.
And it's important to note the arena still can bring in revenue for the city's economy even without a Thunder season, Anderson said. Officials will be able to fill some of the dates that would be left open with concerts and other events, and the renovations might help the city lure events that skipped the area in the past.
City officials have had preliminary discussions on what budget maneuvering would be required if the NBA season is canceled but haven't yet studied it in depth, Dowler said. The largest impact would likely be an increased subsidy for the arena, but by how much isn't yet known, and it would not likely cause many problems within the city's $920 million budget for fiscal year 2012.