Oklahoma City Barons hockey games will have a more “homey” feel this season.
The American Hockey League team announced Wednesday the Cox Center will be modified, and seating capacity for 40 home games will be 7,500. The upper bowl of seats will be covered the entire season, including opening night, which is usually one of the largest draws for sports teams. The Cox Center holds about 13,000 for hockey if the upper bowl is open.
The Barons averaged 4,155 fans last season, but people were often spread throughout the arena.
“We want to create the best environment for entertainment possible for our games,” said Bob Funk Jr., owner of Prodigal LLC, which operates the Barons for the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. “By modifying the capacity, we can provide more intimate setting and the best experience for all of our fans.”
The reduction of seating capacity is a trend many sports franchises, both the major- and minor league levels, are trying to create the intimate setting. The Oklahoma City RedHawks baseball team closed the upper deck along the first base side this season.
The Barons will open the home portion of this season Oct. 15. The AHL has not released the 2011-2012 schedule. The Barons are currently selling season tickets and partial packages. Individual game tickets will go on sale later. For more ticket information, go to okcbarons.com or call 232-4625.
SPARKS WINS STATE AMATEUR
Hunter Sparks finished 11-under par Wednesday to win the Oklahoma Golf Association's State Amateur Stroke Play Championship at the Muskogee Country Club. Sparks, a former Putnam City standout who will be a junior this fall at Wichita State, had three-round scores of 69, 67 and 66. He finished four shots ahead of Colton Staggs, a Jenks High graduate who will be a freshman at Oklahoma State.
*University of Tulsa senior Justin Chavez was named by coaches as Conference USA Preseason Defensive Soccer Player of the Year. The defender from Edmond Memorial has started 63 of 64 games during his college career. He has helped Tulsa post 22 shutouts. TU, picked to finish third in the league, opens the regular season Aug. 27 against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at the Hurricane Soccer and Track Stadium.
*The Oklahoma volleyball team was predicted by coaches to finish in a tie for second place in the Big 12. The Sooners received 53 points as did Iowa State. The Cyclones received two first-place votes. OU did not get any first-place votes. Texas is favored to win the nine-team league; the Longhorns collected seven first-place votes. OU, 23-11 last season, opens the season Aug. 26 with the Nike Invitational in Norman.
*NAIA women's basketball power Oklahoma City will play Kansas State in an exhibition game Nov. 3 in Manhattan, Kan. OCU, which should contend for a national championship this season, gave Missouri a tough exhibition game in 2010 before losing 68-66 in Columbia. The Stars and K-State last played in December 1981, with the Wildcats winning 71-64.