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Ford Center is a multipurpose indoor sports/concert arena located in downtown Oklahoma Citymarker. It is the home of the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. The arena also served as home for the Central Hockey League's Oklahoma City Blazers until the team folded in July 2009, as well as the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz arena football team until the Thunder's arrival forced them out to the Cox Convention Centermarker.

Ford Center also plays host to major concerts, family and social events, conventions, ice shows, civic events, and sporting events from local universities and high schools. Of special note, Ford Center served as the temporary home for the NBA's New Orleans Hornets during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons.

History

Ford Center 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 the I-40 Crosstown Expressway in downtown Oklahoma City. The 'Ford Center' name comes from a naming rights deal with the Oklahoma Ford Association and Dealerships.

The facility is 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.

Oklahoma City officials had long planned to upgrade the facility in order to remain competitive for NCAA events, concerts, and conventions (see MAPS-III). Many critics had felt that Ford Center was a large facility but did not have many of the luxuries of other arenas.

Originally billed and marketed as a "state-of-the-art" facility, Ford Center was 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. The city had thought that it could shell-in updated NBA or NHL amenities and improvements to Ford Center once a team announced it would relocate to the city.

Recognizing that a local investor group had purchased a team as well as the "new NBA model", city leaders revised their plans for upgrading the facility and desired to upgrade Ford Center immediately to remove any doubt about its competitive amenities and potential profitability should a team relocate. Originally city officials had hoped to include Ford Center improvements as part of a planned 2009 MAPS-III initiative.

Arena information

Architecturally, the Ford Center shares likeness with its brother stadium Ford Fieldmarker in Detroit, Michiganmarker. The facility seats up to 19,675 on four seating levels and features 3,380 club seats, seven party suites and 49 private suites. This makes Ford Center the largest indoor arena in the state of Oklahoma.

The Ford Center is located immediately across the street from the Cox Convention Centermarker, a marketing point often used by city officials (since Cox Center itself has a 15,000-seat arena).

Improvements

On March 7, 2008, the citizens of Oklahoma City passed a $121.6 million initiative designed to renovate and expand the Ford Center 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 Ford Center into a top-tier NBA facility.

Some of the planned upgrades to the Ford Center include upscale restaurants, clubs, additional suites (including so-called 'bunker suites'), office space, Kid's Zone, additional concessions, flooring upgrades, view lounges, 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.

Naming rights for the 'new' facility are currently under discussion per terms of the lease agreement between the Professional Basketball Club LLC and the City of Oklahoma City, however preference is being given to the Oklahoma Ford Association, who is the current sponsor.

Events

The Ford Center at night.
The primary tenant of the Ford Center is the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association (see NBA information below). Ford Center also hosts Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League and the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz of af2 on a part-time basis. During scheduling conflicts, the Blazers or Yard Dawgs will move their home games to the Cox Convention Center's arena, across the street. The Ford Center 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 had also came to the Ford Center on September 25, 2006. RAW will also becoming back to the Ford Center on March 1, 2010.

The PBR has held an event at the Ford Center annually since 2002. Its premier bull riding tour, the Built Ford Tough Series (known as the Bud Light Cup until 2002), has occupied the Ford Center from 2002-2006 and again in 2009. 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.

The Ford Center 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 and is the permanent host of the All-College Basketball Classic.

The Ford Center hosts a number of games and events from Oklahoma City University, the University of Oklahomamarker, and Oklahoma State Universitymarker along with those from local highschools and post-secondary organizations. The Ford Center is also used for other events, including major concert tours, conventions, National Hockey League preseason and exhibition games, and notably professional wrestling shows such as Unforgiven 2005, RAW and Smackdown!.

The Ford Center will host 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 Ford Center 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 Pavillionmarker in Tulsamarker on December 16, 1994.

Coldplay has performed at the arena twice. The first was on February 27, 2006 as part of the Twisted Logic Tour. The second on November 16, 2008 as part of the Viva la Vida Tour

Matchbox Twenty performed on March 9, 2008.

NBA

New Orleans Hornets

After the city of New Orleans, Louisianamarker, 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 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. Ford Center received 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 Ford Center 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 Ford Center 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 Thunder

Oklahoma City hosted Minnesota and later on beat them for their first win.
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 Seattlemarker 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 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 Storm remained in Seattle and was sold by Bennett to local Seattle investors.

References

  1. ESPN - Voters approve $121.6 million in arena upgrades to lure NBA team - NBA
  2. Future UFC event coming to Oklahoma City :Five Ounces of Pain


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