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Ford Center, Oklahoma City, OK

A renovated Ford Center will be the home of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

Year Opened:
2002 (remodeled in 2008)
19,599 (basketball); 18,036 (hockey); 17,868 (arena football)
City of Oklahoma City
Arena Cost:
$89 million
Team (s):
Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA); Oklahoma City Blaze (CHL); Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz (af2)
1000 W. Reno Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73102

The NBA’s newest fulltime facility isn’t exactly new. But it’s not very old, either. Ford Center was built in 2002 with the NBA and NHL in mind. The minor league OKC Blaze hockey team immediately took root there. However, it took Hurricane Katrina to put it in the basketball spotlight. When the NBA Hornets were displaced shortly before the start of the 2005-06 season, the team moved its base of operations to Ford Center. The Hornets played two seasons at Ford (and one last preseason game the next year) before returning to New Orleans. But Ford Center had made a good first impression. In 2007, it was the host venue for the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament and has also been avenue for NCAA regional play. In addition, it has hosted arena football games, concerts and wrestling matches.


When Clay Bennett, an Oklahoma City native bought the Seattle Supersonics in 2006, speculation began immediately the team was would become Oklahoma’s first permanent major league franchise. Rumor became reality in June 2006 when Bennett worked out a deal to leave Seattle with two years remaining in the team’s lease.


As part of the deal, Oklahoma City voters had agreed to a penny sales tax that will go into effect on January 1, 2009 and last for 15 months. It is expected this tax will fund most of the $120 million in renovations to the facility. These included more concessions, upscale restaurants, clubs, additional suites (including so-called ‘bunker suites’), viewing lounges, a Kid’s Zone, flooring upgrades 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, a press room, an onsite NBA/team store, and ticket/staff rooms.


The NBA Thunder will also have their offices at Ford Center.


It takes a while for all this to go into place. The changes are expected to be ongoing until sometime in 2010. Lighting, a big issue at NBA games, is at the top of the list of renovations. 26 additional lighting fixtures are expected to be in place by the time the Thunder open life in the NBA at home in late October 2008. Libra Electric Company, an OKC firm, is handling that task. Benham Companies, another local firm, is handling the main design items. The most notable new sights: a first floor Irish style pub and upgraded rest rooms.


SMG, which has running the Ford Center since it opened (and also running the Cox Convention Center across the street), renewed its contract during the summer of 2008.