The horrific devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 did huge damage to the City of New
Orleans. Not only was much of the population uprooted, but significant damage was done to the city's
two sports venues, the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Arena. For the New Orleans
Hornets it was clear that they would not be able to start the season in their familiar digs, so it was up to
the franchise to search for a new home. The solution? Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with a state of the art
new arena suitable for a NBA franchise, a sports minded population base eager to embrace
professional sports, and for the NBA, a new market to test the waters. After one season playing in
Oklahoma City, it is pretty much accepted that the NO/OKC Hornets have been a smashing success
here... packed houses, a buzz on the streets, and putting the city and the Ford Center into the national
consciousness as a major sports city.
Getting to the venue
Finding the Ford Center is a snap - it can be seen right off of the I-40 and is about a mile west of I-35
which runs N-S. A parking ramp is adjacent to the arena, and plenty of surface parking can be found in
any direction with short walking distance to the arena. Parking fees can be found for $5-$6 just a block
away, so that is pretty reasonable. A quaint trolley runs through the downtown core and Bricktown and
stops right at the arena so that is also a cool way to ride to the game. Meters aren't monitored after
6pm so if you can snag a spot then your parking is free.
Outside the venue
The Ford Center is located on the south side of downtown Oklahoma City, immediately adjacent to the
Cox Convention Center, which used to be their downtown arena, before that structure was refurbished
for convention space. The downtown area is clean, bright and safe, and office and hotel buildings are
abundant off to the north. Right next door is a brand new Courtyard by Marriott Hotel which is really
striking. But the best area here in downtown OKC is Bricktown, just two blocks east of the Ford Center.
The Bricktown neighborhood is a collection of refurbished warehouses mixed with new construction,
and plenty of nightclubs, restaurants, patio cafes, retail stores, a new Bass Pro superstore, and the
AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, a splendid 13,000 seat minor league baseball venue. A canal winds through
this neighborhood, sunk below street grade and offering water taxis and paddleboat rides. All
connected via old time brick paved streets. An awesome party and tourist destination!
Arena exterior and concourses
The exterior of the Ford Center is of a yellow brick façade with two major entrances facing West Reno
Street. A statue sits near the west entry celebrating the 1989 Olympic Festival that took place here in
Oklahoma City. Once inside the venue one either heads straightforward up the stairs/escalators to the
club/upper deck or swings a left/right depending on entry to the arena’s main concourse. Ads from the
Ford Motor Company adorn the walls of the two main entry ways.
On game day West Reno is closed off to traffic and serves as a place for fans entertainment with live
music, refreshments and a bookmobile for the kids, of all things. The scene is an exuberant and
The signature feature of both upper and lower concourses are a series of murals depicting many of
the things that made Oklahoma famous. Pioneer wagons, cowboy hats and so much more. These
murals which dot the floor of the lower concourse and emblazon the ceiling of the upper level, greatly
enhancing the look of what are otherwise somewhat dark and bland concourses.
The bowl is split into two levels sandwiching a club/suite level with total seating capacity at just under
twenty thousand. Hovering above center court is a four sided video board with room for the score and
basic stats of players currently on the court. The board also has an analog clock on each of the four
sides, a nice touch.
An LED board surrounds the seating bowl and enlivens the look of the arena. Out of town scores are
occasionally shown above the center court portion of the ribbon board.
Another detail to mention is the relatively low ceiling in the seating bowl. Unlike so many other places
with an arched or domed ceiling, here in OKC it is flat and possibly is a reason why the venue’s
decibel meter can reach ear splitting levels.
A lot of attention was given to make an interesting and varied concession menu happen here at the
Ford Center. To begin with, the Jackson Square stand offers a New Orleans style fare including Po
Boys and Gumbo. On the upper deck are two grills commemorating the big college programs –
Sooner Grille and Cowboys Grill (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State Universities). The grills offer various
half pound burgers including the signature Onion Burger. A Potato World stand offers baked potatoes
with all the trimmings and we even found fresh made candied apples. Add all this to the usual fare
and it is all good stuff. On the lower level there is an exclusive restaurant named the York Ice House
with sit down dining, which is available to season ticket holders only.
No true main “team store” but there are a pair of smaller shops on either sideline in the lower level.
Can’t find what you want there? Trust us there are plenty of other merchandise stands all throughout
The club level here offers an upscale concourse and two premium restaurants, the Sunset Bistro and
the Victory Buffet. There is an additional restaurant located on the main concourse called the York
Icehouse, which is open to any season ticket holder. Suites and seven larger "state park suites" are
also located along the 200 club level.
The franchise's history spans three cities - Charlotte, New Orleans and Oklahoma City, so it would
make sense to say that it would be a tall order to carry the team's accomplishments and player icons
into this new venue. Gratefully the OKC front office has not manufactured some dumb accomplishment
to hang in the rafters. The only banners up in the ceiling pay tribute to "Loud City", exhorting the fans in
the upper deck to be noisy and crazy.
Slam dunks, assists, fouls...
Slam dunk - To "Jackson Square", the concession stand named for the landmark location in New
Orleans. Here they are offering fare from the Big Easy such as Shrimp Po-Boys, Gumbo and Cajun
Fries. A great tribute to the city that shares this franchise!
Assist – to the fans in the balcony, which is dubbed “Loud City” and they mean it! Thundersticks are
passed out to seat holders up there and that just adds to the “Bedlam”. No wonder the upper deck is
also named “Bedlam Level”.
Foul – We took advantage of a promotion which gave us a Love’s gas station $5 gas card, which we
collected at the team store. When we tried to redeem the card at the pumps, we found it wasn’t
Slam Dunk – to the fans of OK City in general. When this team escaped the horrors of New Orleans
there was absolutely no idea as to how the city would react and how many fans would come to see the
NBA in a predominantly college sports town. Boy oh boy they blew away all expectations! Over half of
the Ford Center’s 35 games have been sellouts and the venues is being highly touted as being one of
the NBA’s loudest venues right up there with Arco Arena in Sactown. The scene here is eerily
reminiscent of, dare we say it – Charlotte 1988?
Assist – to the in game entertainment staff in the Ford Center. There were some innovative stunts and
games played during breaks in the action. A beach volleyball game between sections, using an actual
decibel meter to measure crowd noise.
Assist - to the profuse thanks by the team to the fans, the last home game was dubbed “the FANale”
and featured several thank yous from players and manangement on the scoreboard. Also the team
wore a special ”OKLAHOMA CITY” jerseys on this night(which Peter has one of) as a thanks for
Foul – to the USRT karma. In what was basically an elimination game for the Hornets and Jazz the
Hornets came up a point short as Utah came up with a some critical offensive rebounds resulting in
their game winning points for a 105-104 final.
Make no mistake - Oklahoma City has been a wonderful caretaker for this franchise. Despite not
making the playoffs, eager fans have snapped up tickets, and have created a real love affair with this
team. The question now becomes - does owner George Shinn and the NBA make this move a
permanent one, or does the team return to a city that is still minus 75% of its population? The Hornets
will play 35 home games in OKC in 2006-07; from there the league commissioner says that the plan is
to return the franchise to New Orleans and honor the lease there. But the leaders in Oklahoma City are
saying "not so fast" and argue that their city is very much deserving of an NBA franchise, and clearly
has their sites on keeping the Hornets for good. When the suggestion was brought up that sturggling
teams in Portland or Seattle might make ideal relocation candidates to OKC, a Hornets front office
official replied "I don't think Oklahoma City can support two franchises."
Nonetheless, we give props to Oklahomans for their warmth and hospitality, for a pretty good venue in
the Ford Center, and for creating a special environment to enjoy NBA hoops. Attending a Hornets game
in OKC is a special and enjoyable experience... we wish you folks the best of luck!
Food and team store 6.5
Scoreboard and electronics 7
Fan support 9
Location and neighborhood 8.5
Banners and history 4
In game entertainment 8
Concourses/fan comfort 5
Bonus: Loud City 2, Bricktown 2, Invocation 2