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Chesapeake Energy Arena

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Chesapeake Energy Arena
"Loud City"
"The Thunderdome"
Chesapeake Energy Arena Logo
OKC Ford Center
Exterior photo of the arena, taken when it was called the "Ford Center"
Former names Ford Center (2002-2010)
Oklahoma City Arena (2010-2011)
Location Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Broke ground May 11, 1999[1]
Opened June 8, 2002
Owner Oklahoma City
Operator SMG
Construction cost $89.2 million
Architect Sink Combs Dethlefs
The Benham Companies, LLC.
General Contractor Flintco Construction Co.[2]
Capacity Basketball: 18,203
Hockey: 18,036
Arena football: 17,868
Concerts: 20,817
WWE: 14,708
Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA) (2008–present)
Oklahoma City Hornets (NBA) (2005–2007)
Oklahoma City Blazers (CHL) (2002–2009)
Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz (2004–2009)

Chesapeake Energy Arena (originally Ford Center and formerly Oklahoma City Arena) is a multi-purpose arena, located in downtown Oklahoma City.

It is the home of the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. The arena also served as home for the CHL's Oklahoma City Blazers, until the team folded in July 2009, as well as the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz arena football team. Of special note, it served as the temporary home for the NBA's New Orleans Hornets, during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons.

It also plays host to major concerts, family and social events, conventions, ice shows, civic events and sporting events from local universities and high schools.


It is owned by the City of Oklahoma City and opened on June 8, 2002, three years after construction began.[3] 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 represents the marketing efforts of the state's Ford dealerships, rather than the Ford Motor Company itself.[4]

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.[3]

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 the 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.[5] This initiative was passed by a 62% to 38% margin, and extended a prior one-cent sales tax for a period of fifteen 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.[5]

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.[6] The franchise move was approved by NBA ownership on April 18, 2008.[6]

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.[4] The Thunder previously had discussions with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers; however, a new agreement could not be reached.[4] 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.[4] 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.[7]

On July 22, 2011 a twelve-year naming rights partnership was announced, the partnership between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chesapeake Energy Corporation to rename the arena Chesapeake Energy Arena.[8] The agreement between Chesapeake and the Thunder has an initial annual cost of $3.0 million with a 3.0% annual escalation.[8] Included in the agreement Chesapeake will have 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 will be in place before the start of the Thunder’s 2011-12 season.[9]

Arena informationEdit

The 581,000 Sq. ft. facility seats up to 19,675 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 sq. ft. “Irish Pub” themed bar and at The Courtside Club a 6,198 sq. ft. 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] The Thunder's practice facility completion date was similarly pushed back to approximately March 2011.[15]


  1. Lackmeyer, Steve. "Company to Manage Both Downtown Arenas", May 12, 1999. Retrieved on February 24, 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Overview, accessed August 27, 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Ford Center name to change, (accessed August 27, 2010)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Knapp, Adam. Ford Center Arena Improvement Plan. Retrieved on November 17, 2010.
  6. 6.0 6.1 DiTore, Larry (April 18, 2008). NBA Owners Approve SuperSonics' Move to Oklahoma. Bloomberg. Retrieved on November 17, 2010.
  7. Ford Center Is Now The Oklahoma City Arena. KOCO.COM.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Thunder's home now known as Chesapeake Energy Arena,
  9. OKC Arena to be Renamed Chesapeake Energy Arena. on 22 July 2011.
  10. New Scoreboard Designed with Fans in Mind.
  11. ESPN - Voters approve $121.6 million in arena upgrades to lure NBA team - NBA
  12. MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board Presentation. City of Oklahoma City (August 24, 2010).
  13. Rohde, John. "Ford Center Practice Gym Eliminated from Renovations", August 8, 2010. Retrieved on November 17, 2010. 
  14. "Oklahoma City Might Save as Much as $14 Million on Ford Center Renovations, Practice Facility", July 7, 2010. Retrieved on November 17, 2010. 
  15. Rohde, John. "Thunder Practice Facility Set for March Completion", November 16, 2010. Retrieved on November 17, 2010. 

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