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Improved Chesapeake Energy Arena has ‘wow' factor

by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 11, 2011

Before you get both feet inside the doors of Chesapeake Energy Arena, a video cylinder spanning 92 feet around commands your eye.

Bust a right, march toward the 100-level concourse and everything, from lighting to signage to the floor and ceiling, is brighter, crisper and cleaner than before.

Welcome to the newly renovated arena on Reno Avenue.

The improvements are a slice of the final wave of a three-phase renovation project Oklahoma City residents in 2008 voted to approve with a one-cent sales tax.

“Somebody asked me ‘What do you hope for people to see and say when they walk in,'” said Gary Desjardins, the arena's general manager. “I hope they say ‘wow.'”

Desjardins got his wows Monday night, when the arena opened its doors for its first event — a WWE show — following the completion of the majority of projects included in the $36 million final phase.

But it's the building's most frequent patrons — Oklahoma City Thunder fans — that may not experience the new look for quite some time.

The NBA's labor dispute has resulted in an owner-imposed lockout of the league's players. Games have been, and more than likely will continue to be, canceled. The Thunder already has lost two preseason home games and two regular-season home games in the wake of the conflict.

The Thunder was scheduled to make its debut inside the renovated Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday, in an exhibition game against Charlotte.

If no deal is reached between owners and players on a new collective bargaining agreement by next week, the final two weeks of the November schedule could be wiped out as well.

That would erase five more home games, leaving Thunder fans unable to see their home arena unless it's for acts like Chris Brown and Taylor Swift, the 20-something pop stars who come to town this week.

“I think everybody is disappointed because of just the high that we experienced last year with the playoff run and what the expectations were for this year and looking forward to having that much fun,” said Desjardins. “And going to a Thunder game is just a great experience. There's nothing like it.”

Chesapeake Energy Arena, however, won't sit idle until professional basketball returns. Brown is scheduled to play the arena Wednesday night, and Swift will be in town Saturday. Larry the Cable Guy is scheduled one week after Swift.

The improvements should help concert and show goers enjoy their evenings even more. Many of the upgrades are aesthetic, although those who wish to live green will be pleased to know recycling bins have been added throughout.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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