Chesapeake Energy Arena will be the new name of Oklahoma City's downtown arena formerly known as the Ford Center under a new naming rights agreement jointly announced Thursday by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chesapeake Energy Corp.
Under the 12-year naming rights agreement, Chesapeake will pay the Thunder $3 million the first year, with a 3 percent annual escalation clause for each year, thereafter. The agreement includes Chesapeake branding throughout the building including on the basketball court, prominent premium placement on the high-definition scoreboard and new state-of-the-art interior and exterior digital signage.
Most of the signage is expected to be in place by the start of the Thunder's 2011-12 season.
“On behalf of the entire Thunder organization, we are extremely proud to enhance our already strong partnership with Chesapeake Energy,” said Clayton I. Bennett, Thunder chairman. “Besides being a leader in the national and international energy industry, Chesapeake is a dynamic business and community leader in Oklahoma. Together with the Thunder's commitment to the community, it makes the naming rights partnership a natural fit. The Thunder looks forward to many exciting years ahead playing in Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown Oklahoma City.”
Martha A. Burger, Chesapeake's senior vice president-Human and Corporate Resources, said her corporation is thrilled with the new agreement.
“The Thunder represents the values we embrace at Chesapeake — integrity, teamwork, commitment, hard work and service,” Burger said. “The naming rights also provide a powerful natural gas branding opportunity for our company, particularly when you consider the national, and even global, reach of the Thunder.”
The Thunder received the rights to most proceeds from the naming rights agreement under the deal it reached with the city to bring the NBA team to Oklahoma City from Seattle.
The city will continue to receive $409,000 a year plus an escalator amount tied to the Consumer Price Index. The amount the city receives is based on its original naming rights contract with Oklahoma Ford Dealers before an NBA team arrived in Oklahoma City.
Rick Horrow, one of the leading international experts in the business of sports and coordinator of more than 100 facility deals in the country, said Thursday he believes the 12-year deal is “imminently fair” and a “win-win for all concerned.”
“It provides another showcasing opportunity of a homegrown company that is now evolving into a national and international corporate sponsor,” Horrow said. “To me, this is another in a series of unique and significant national steps that began in 1993 with the MAPS plan. I continue to be amazed and impressed with the progress and maturation of Oklahoma City as a major international business center.”
Horrow said he has been amazed by the “unprecedented regional business support” that Oklahoma City received in implementing the downtown redevelopment plan and attracting the NBA franchise.
Besides being home to the Thunder, the arena regularly hosts a variety of concerts, sporting and other world-class events, attracting more than a million guests per year.
Chesapeake is one of the Thunder's five founding partners. The others are Devon Energy Corp., MidFirst Bank, The Oklahoma Publishing Co. and SandRidge Energy, Inc.
Burger said Chesapeake is “pleased to be actively participating in the continued revitalization and transformation of downtown Oklahoma City currently led by the Devon Energy Center, SandRidge Energy Commons, Continental Resources, the Boathouse District, Myriad Gardens, Project 180, MAPS 3 and the city's ongoing renovation of Chesapeake Energy Arena.”
“To see Chesapeake's distinctive and recognizable blue flame logo as a visually prominent part of downtown Oklahoma City supports our commitment to community and our corporate message that the abundance of natural gas offers our nation the best opportunity to achieve energy independence,” she said.
Opened in June 2002, Chesapeake Energy Arena is managed by SMG and owned by the city of Oklahoma City.
The arena was the premier project of Oklahoma City's first capital improvement program (MAPS) passed in 1993 to finance new and upgraded sports, entertainment, cultural and convention facilities with a 1-cent temporary sales tax. In March 2008, Oklahoma City voters overwhelmingly approved another temporary 1-cent sales tax to fund significant upgrades to the arena.