If Oklahoma City is going to get its own NBA team, the Ford Center is going to need some work. A new practice area, better food and drink options and improved bathrooms are a few of the options an architect will look at over the next few months. The city council voted Tuesday to pay The Benham Companies $250,000 to study which improvements will be needed to make the Ford Center capable of hosting a permanent NBA franchise. "Benham was the architect that did the Ford Center and probably has superior knowledge to anyone else as far as going in to that facility and making those improvements,” City Manager Jim Couch said. "That, combined with the time frame is why we went that direction.” The study won't just be about the NBA. Benham will also make recommendations to make the Ford Center a better concert venue and a better host to the Oklahoma City Blazers hockey team. But the biggest needs are likely the things an NBA franchise would want, said Tom Anderson, Oklahoma City's special projects manager. "We learned a lot about the building from having the Hornets here for two years,” Anderson said. "There were some real obvious things we needed like an adjacent practice facility. "We've got to work towards the future.” Some of the other needs: •Sit-down restaurants or clubs in the lower and upper levels of the arena where spectators could eat or drink and watch the game. •Bigger locker rooms •A bigger area for the team store •Improved bathrooms •General visual upgrades to the floors, walls and ceilings. Anderson said most of the improvements would be geared toward making the Ford Center a better place to watch a game. "We are going to want to make things more fan-friendly,” Anderson said. "We made a lot of improvements to get by while the Hornets were here.” Couch said the study should be complete by February. In other business, the council hired a consultant to look at whether the city needs to build a new amphitheater to host outdoor concerts and events. The city will pay Convention, Sports & Leisure International Inc. $72,400 to consider the idea. Anderson said several private developers have approached the city with the idea of building a new amphitheater capable of hosting large concerts. The study will determine whether there is enough demand to justify a new amphitheater and will determine possible sites and a general design for such a venue.
The Ford Center will need some work when, or if, the city gets another NBA franchise. by John Clanton, THE OKLAHOMAN Archive