I took a tour of the Ford Center this morning with SMG General Manager Gary Desjardins and Director of Marketing and Sales Tim Linville, getting a look at nearly every area in which improvements are going to be made to the building. John Estus, a writer on the news side at The Oklahoman, and Dave Morris and Angi Bruss from NewsOK.com were also on the tour. John and I will have continuing coverage in the paper in the coming days on the project, while the NewsOK team will provide video of the tour for viewers and commentary from Desjardins.
Even though I was at the Ford Center at least three times a week while covering the Hornets over the past two years, I had never seen some areas of the arena. I got into a routine for the most part going from entrance, to press room, to courtside seat, to locker rooms, back to press room before finally heading for the exit.
Walking throughout each of the arena’s levels and seeing the current state of the building as opposed to what’s planned if the March 4 vote passes, you can really see how much different the Ford Center will look and feel. Hopefully, when the video tour is on NewsOK viewers will be able to visualize some of the proposed changes first-hand.
The Ford Center is set for a massive expansion on both the north and south sides of the building. If the vote passes and the upgrades are made, the arena’s current main entrance on Reno Ave. will be enlarged and have a bigger, more inviting lobby. But it will also become a secondary entrance. The grand entrance will be located on the southwest side of the building where the York Icehouse entrance is currently located.
Once you’re in the building, better lighting and new floors and walls will be added throughout the 100 and 300 levels to add a shine to both concourses. New carpet is scheduled to be installed on the 200 level. Several concession stands on the 100 level will be relocated. Bathrooms throughout the building will be renovated. “Bunker suites” will be added on the event level (underground) and 100 level. VIP clubs will also be added on the event level. The suites on the 200 level will be upgraded. A total of five “roof gardens” areas will be added on the 200 and 300 concourse levels, allowing fans to go outside and look at skyline views. A play zone will be added on the 300 level for children. A practice court with overhead views will be included. And there’s talk about decorating the arena’s concrete on the walls and steps to make it look much better than it is now.
The Ford Center will stay open through the majority of the renovations, according to Desjardins. But during the more massive renovations the venue might have to shut down for certain periods. It’s difficult to visualize a lot of these changes just reading about them here or in the paper. But I came away from this morning’s tour amazed at how much different the building would be three years from now.