Chesapeake Energy Arena (originally Ford Center) 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, which relocated to the Cox Convention Center. Of special note, it served as the temporary home for the NBA's New Orleans/Oklahoma City 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. 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.
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 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. 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.
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.
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 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. The agreement between Chesapeake and the Thunder has an initial annual cost of $3.0 million with a 3.0% annual escalation. 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.
The 581,000-square-foot (54,000 m2) 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. 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.
It has hosted many WWE events such as Raw, SmackDown, and Unforgiven 2005. A record-setting Raw was held in the arena on June 30, 2008 with 11,560 fans on hand. This was the most WWE tickets sold in Oklahoma in WWE history. 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. The March 1 show was the first-ever WWE sell out of the Chesapeake Energy Arena with 14,708 fans on hand. Also on October 1, 2010, WWE came back to the Chesapeake Energy Arena to do the first live Smackdown on Syfy. WWE returned in March of 2011 to do a Raw house show. WWE will also come back to do a live WWE Raw taping on October 10, 2011.
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.
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 is the permanent host of the All-College Basketball Classic.
It 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. The Chesapeake Energy Arena 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 2009 Big 12 Conference Men's Basketball Tournament. In early July, UFC president Dana White announced that they are working on bringing an event to the Chesapeake Energy Arena within the next 6–8 months. It would be the first UFC event held in the state of Oklahoma since UFC 4, which was at the Expo Square Pavillion in Tulsa on December 16, 1994.
- Sammy Hagar & The Waboritas - July 25, 2002
- Paul McCartney - October 15, 2002
- The Rolling Stones - January 28, 2003
- Elton John - March 2, 2003, with Billy Joel and March 23, 2005
- Pearl Jam - April 3, 2003, with Sleater-Kinney
- The Eagles - June 22, 2003
- Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake - June 25, 2003
- Fleetwood Mac - July 1, 2003
- Aerosmith and KISS - December 14, 2003
- Prince & The New Power Generation - April 6, 2004
- Metallica - May 14, 2004, with Godsmack
- Eric Clapton - June 9, 2004 and March 5, 2007, with The Robert Cray Band
- Van Halen - July 25, 2004, with Shinedown
- Bette Midler - November 12, 2004
- Josh Groban - March 13, 2005
- Mötley Crüe - April 14, 2005
- Green Day - August 17, 2005
- The Trans-Siberian Orchestra - November 19, 2005, December 15, 2006, December 22, 2007 (2 shows), November 30, 2008 (2 shows), December 20, 2009 (2 shows) and December 1-2, 2010
- The Who - March 23, 2007
- Tool - May 19, 2007 and June 23, 2010
- Martina McBride - July 12, 2007, with Little Big Town
- Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus - December 2, 2007, with The Jonas Brothers
- Ozzy Osbourne - December 7, 2007, with Rob Zombie
- Linkin Park - February 29, 2008
- Daughtry - April 14, 2008
- The Foo Fighters - July 17, 2008
- Santana - September 16, 2008
- Neil Diamond - October 19, 2008
- Music as a Weapon IV - March 23, 2009
- Kings of Leon - October 3, 2009
- Rob Thomas - October 7, 2009, with OneRepublic and Carolina Liar
- Billy Joel - February 25, 2010, with Elton John
- Taylor Swift - March 31, 2010
- Lady Gaga - July 20, 2010, with Semi Precious Weapons
- The Jonas Brothers - September 29, 2010
- Muse - October 8, 2010, with Passion Pit
- Carrie Underwood - October 20, 2010
- Justin Bieber - November 3, 2010, with Jasmine Villegas
- Michael Bublé - December 8, 2010, with Naturally 7
- Rascal Flatts - March 12, 2011
After the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, 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. 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. Chesapeake Energy 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 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena 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 the NBA "had not played its last game in 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 the Chesapeake Energy Arena. 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.