Chesapeake Energy Arena at night
|Former names||Ford Center (2002-2010)
Oklahoma City Arena (2010-2011)
|Address||100 West Reno Avenue|
|Location||Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|Owner||City of Oklahoma City|
|Broke ground||May 11, 1999|
|Opened||June 8, 2002|
|Construction cost||US$89.2 million|
|Architect||The Benham Companies, LLC.
Sink Combs Dethlefs
|Services engineer||M-E Engineers, Inc.|
|General contractor||Flintco Construction Co.|
|Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA) (2008-present)
New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets (NBA) (2005-2007)
Oklahoma City Blazers (CHL) (2002-2009)
Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz (af2) (2004-2008)
Chesapeake Energy Arena, originally known as the Ford Center from 2002 to 2010 and Oklahoma City Arena until 2011, is an arena located in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. It opened in 2002 and since 2008 has served as the home venue of the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Previously, Chesapeake Energy Arena was home to the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League (CHL) from 2002 until the team folded in July 2009, and the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz of AF2 from 2004 to 2009 when the team moved to the Cox Convention Center. In addition to its use as a sports venue, Chesapeake Energy Arena hosts concerts, family and social events, conventions, ice shows, and civic events. The arena is owned by the city and operated by the SMG property management company and has 18,203 seats in the basketball configuration, 15,152 for hockey, and can seat up to 16,591 for concerts.
From 2005 to 2007 the arena also served as the temporary home for the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA when the Hornets were forced to play games elsewhere following extensive damage to New Orleans Arena and the city of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. During the two seasons in Oklahoma City, the team was known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. The response from fans while the Hornets played in Oklahoma City was an impetus to the city being discussed prior to 2008 as a future NBA team, either by relocation or expansion.
It is owned by the City of Oklahoma City and opened on June 8, 2002, three years after construction began. It is located adjacent to the Robinson Avenue exit of I-40 Crosstown Expressway in downtown Oklahoma City. The original Ford Center name came from a naming rights deal with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers group which represented the marketing efforts of the state's Ford dealerships, rather than the Ford Motor Company itself.
The facility was the premier component of the city's 1993 Capital Improvement Program, known as Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), which financed new and upgraded sports, entertainment, cultural, and convention facilities primarily in the downtown section with a temporary 1-cent sales tax assessed. Despite the "metropolitan" moniker of the improvement program, the tax was only assessed inside city limits.
Originally billed and marketed as a "state-of-the-art" facility, Oklahoma City Arena was actually constructed to minimum NBA and NHL specifications. The arena was built without luxury amenities because of local concerns on expenditures on an arena without a major-league tenant, with the ability to create "buildout" amenities and improvements to the arena if a professional sports team announced it would relocate to the city.
A plan for such buildout improvements began in 2007 in the wake of acquisition of the Seattle SuperSonics by an Oklahoma-City based ownership group in October 2006. Originally, city officials had hoped to include Oklahoma City Arena buildout improvements as part of a planned 2009 "MAPS 3" initiative. However, given the impending relocation decision of the Sonics ownership group in late 2007, the City Council of Oklahoma City placed a sales tax initiative on the city election ballot on March 4, 2008. This initiative was passed by a 62% to 38% margin, and extended a prior one-cent sales tax for a period of 15 months in order to fund $121 million in budgeted improvements to the arena, as well as fund a separate practice facility for a relocated franchise.
Subsequent to the ballot initiative, City officials and Sonics ownership announced a preliminary agreement to move the Sonics franchise to Oklahoma City and the Ford Center. The deal included a provision for $1.6 million in annual rents to the City for use of the Ford Center (including marketing rights of luxury seating areas for all NBA and most non-NBA events), and a $409,000 annual supplemental payment in exchange for a transfer of arena naming rights and associated revenue to the Sonics franchise. The franchise move was approved by NBA ownership on April 18, 2008.
Basketball seating capacity at the arena has adjusted with the venue configuration:
On August 26, 2010, the franchise, by then renamed the Oklahoma City Thunder, announced that they had begun negotiating naming rights to its home arena with new potential partners. The facility was called the Ford Center and signage throughout the building remained intact during the negotiation period. The Thunder previously had discussions with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers; however, a new agreement could not be reached. As a result of the failed negotiation with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers, the Thunder decided to terminate the existing naming rights agreement, which was allowed under the original contract. On October 21, 2010, because of the ongoing negotiation for the naming rights for the arena, and because of its failed negotiation with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers, it was announced that the arena would be called the Oklahoma City Arena. The new name was used temporarily until naming rights were settled.
On July 22, 2011, a 12-year naming rights partnership was announced, the partnership between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chesapeake Energy Corporation to rename the arena Chesapeake Energy Arena. The agreement between Chesapeake and the Thunder has an initial annual cost of $3 million with a 3% annual escalation. Included in the agreement Chesapeake had its branding throughout the building, prominent premium placement on the high-definition scoreboard, and on new state-of-the-art interior and exterior digital signs. Most of the new signs were in place before the start of the Thunder's 2011-12 season.
The 581,000-square-foot (54,000 m2) facility seats up to 19,711 on three seating levels with a fourth added during concerts and features 3,380 club seats, seven party suites, and 49 private suites. It is located immediately across the street from the Cox Convention Center, a marketing point often used by city officials (since Cox Center itself has a 15,000-seat arena). It also features The OLD NO. 7 Club, a full service restaurant and bar. Several other exclusive dining options are also available at The Pub, a 1,576-square-foot (146.4 m2) "Irish Pub" themed bar, and at The Courtside Club, a 6,198-square-foot (575.8 m2) restaurant and lounge area, as well as at the Victory Club, Sunset Carvery, and the new Terrace Lounges.
On March 4, 2008, the citizens of Oklahoma City passed a $121.6 million initiative designed to renovate and expand the Chesapeake Energy Arena and to build a practice facility for the relocated Seattle SuperSonics team which is now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder. Financing consists of a temporary 15-month, 1-cent sales tax that will be paid by Oklahoma City residents and shoppers beginning January 1, 2009.
The city held the temporary tax initiative in March 2008 to facilitate the relocation of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics or another relocation franchise. It is expected that the refurbishment will turn the Chesapeake Energy Arena into a top-tier NBA facility.
Some of the planned upgrades to the Chesapeake Energy Arena include upscale restaurants, clubs, additional suites (including so-called 'bunker suites'), office space, Kid's Zone, additional concessions, flooring upgrades, an integrated video and scoring system from Daktronics, view lounges, and upgraded 'general use' locker rooms. NBA specific amenities include 'NBA ONLY' locker rooms and facilities, a practice court, media broadcast facilities, lighting, and sound, an NBA press room, an onsite NBA and team store, and ticket/staff rooms. It is anticipated that the Oklahoma City Thunder team will lease the new office space.
Renovation work on the arena was delayed due to a sales tax receipt shortfall during the 2008-10 economic crisis; eventual tax receipts totaled $103.5 million rather than the projected $121 million. The shortfall was accommodated by revising plans for certain features of the arena expansion project, including limiting the size of a new glass entryway, and eliminating a practice court planned for above the delivery entrance of the arena. Major construction work on the arena expansion was also delayed from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011. Similar revisions were made to the plans for the Thunder's separate practice facility, for a total cost savings of approximately $14 million. The Thunder's practice facility completion date was similarly pushed back to approximately March 2011.
The Chesapeake Energy Arena hosts a number of games and events from Oklahoma City University, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University along with those from local high schools and post-secondary organizations. It is also used for other events, including major concert tours, conventions, National Hockey League preseason and exhibition games, and notably professional wrestling shows.
It hosted the 2007 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament for the first time in 2007 (with the 2007 Big 12 Women's Basketball Tournament held across the street at Cox Convention Center). The venue has hosted the NCAA Men's Basketball First and Second Round on several occasions (including 2010 and 2016) and is the permanent host of the All-College Basketball Classic. It hosted the 2009 Big 12 Conference Men's Basketball Tournament. In March 2014, the arena played host to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
After the city of New Orleans, and surrounding area was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the NBA reached a deal with the City of Oklahoma City which allowed the New Orleans Hornets franchise to temporarily move to the Chesapeake Energy Arena (then known as the Ford Center). The New Orleans Hornets leased the facility for the 2005-06 season and exercised the option with the city to extend for the 2006-07 season. The arena acquired a $200,000 renovation (primarily to lighting and sound) as part of the Hornets' lease. During this time, the team was known as the "New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets", giving Oklahoma City credit for hosting the 'home team'. The Hornets played their last game in Oklahoma City on October 9, 2007, a preseason game.
The hosting of the Hornets arguably gave Oklahoma City the edge it needed to land on the radar of professional sports. Long being considered by many as too small to host a major-league team for a variety of reasons, support for the Hornets during their two-year stay caught the attention of the NBA and other sports leagues. Attendance for Hornets games at the Chesapeake Energy Arena averaged 18,716 fans in 2005-06 (36 games) and 17,951 fans (35 games) in 2006-07. David Stern was quoted as stating that "Oklahoma City was at the top of the relocation list of cities" and during the Hornets' last home game he all but assured local fans that "I look forward to the day that the NBA will return to Oklahoma City."
Oklahoma City billionaire investor Clay Bennett of the Professional Basketball Club LLC purchased the Seattle SuperSonics and Seattle Storm franchises from Howard Schultz in 2006. The deal included a provision that gave Seattle officials one year to solve its arena situation or allow Bennett to seek relocation.
After an April 2008 league approval, it was announced on July 2, 2008 that the Sonics franchise would be relocating to Oklahoma City and would play at what was then the Ford Center. The agreement retires the "SuperSonics" moniker, color, and logos, possibly to be used by a future NBA team in Seattle. On September 2, 2008, the team announced they would be called the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The arena has become known as one of the loudest arenas in the NBA, leading it to be nicknamed "Loud City". For instance, during the first playoff game at the arena, the noise level reached as high as 109 decibels.
The Thunder have been a playoff mainstay since arriving in Oklahoma. Chesapeake Energy Arena hosted playoff games every year between 2010 and 2014, as well as 2016. In 2012, the arena became host of the NBA Finals for the only time to date, when the Thunder went up against the Miami Heat for the league championship. The Thunder won Game 1 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in convincing fashion, but lost the last four games and the championship to the Heat.
The arena has hosted many WWE events such as Raw, SmackDown, and Unforgiven 2005. Raw came to the Chesapeake Energy Arena on September 25, 2006 and March 1, 2010 with Cheech & Chong appearing as the evening's guest hosts. During the show on September 25, 2006, the opening of the show suffered a blackout, but lights were restored shortly after the night began.
On September 16, 2009, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to Oklahoma for the first time since UFC 4, which was at the Expo Square Pavilion in Tulsa on December 16, 1994. A mixed martial arts event will return to the arena on January 12 with the Strikeforce: Champions event.
The PBR has held an event at the Chesapeake Energy Arena annually since 2002. Its premier bull riding tour, the Built Ford Tough Series (known as the Bud Light Cup until 2002), has occupied the Chesapeake Energy Arena from 2002-2006 and again in 2009 and each year since. In 2007 and 2008, the PBR held their Challenger Tour finals here. Prior to 2002, the PBR's BFTS tour event was held at the Oklahoma State Fair Arena.
Every 2 years, on the odds, North American Youth Congress (NAYC) is held in the arena. 2015 was the first year that the arena was sold out. The COX arena across the street was the overflow stadium that year, and was streamed across the street live.