Gary Desjardins is the long-time general manager of Chesapeake Energy Arena. Which means Desjardins has been busy the last few days, making sure his building is doing well as host of the Big 12 Tournament.
I chatted with Desjardins on Saturday as he strolled through the arena.
You have partitioned off the west-side upper deck with massive curtains. It cuts your seating down to about 10,000. What are the benefits?
Desjardins: “We put that in back in, I want to say, 2004. We use it for events where we’re not expecting to necessarily expecting to need the entire bowl . Basically makes the building two buildings in one. Gives us a lot of flexibility, makes the atmosphere a lot better for those events.”
Chesapeake has a bunch of extra locker rooms, in addition to the Thunder’s. Is this arena well-suited for a tournament like the Big 12 or an NCAA regional?
Desjardins: “It’s nice. Even when we first opened, our locker rooms weren’t as big. We were subdividing those. Now, we have five. Because of the renovations we’ve got, all comparable in size, all first class. I remember my boss walking in one of them, he thought it was the home dressing room. It was the visiting. We’re really proud of it.”
Oklahoma City hosted the Big 12 Tournament in 2007 and 2009, but both men and women. Now it’s just women. Is this a much easier enterprise?
Desjardins: “It was fun when we had men and women together. It was one big large event. Wasn’t just the men’s tournament or the women’s tournament. It was the the tournament. But when we hosted the men’s and women’s tournaments, we paid special attention to the women, so the student-athletes were getting the same experience. That was a focus for us and the All Sports Association. It was a strategy that worked. I think the coaches enjoyed it. For us to pick it back up and host the women’s tournament, is a good thing for Oklahoma City. And it’s good for the building. We appreciate them coming here and supporting the building and supporting Oklahoma City.”