Updates would keep Chesapeake Arena current
Tom Anderson, Oklahoma City’s special projects manager, and Chris Semrau, manager for SMG, operator of Chesapeake Energy Arena, visited with the Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer and fielded questions from readers during Friday's OKC Central Live Chat.
The three discussed the $115 million in upgrades and improvements planned for the arena as part of the proposed MAPS 4 going to voters on Dec. 10. Below is an abridged transcript.
How big is Chesapeake Arena compared to other arenas in the NBA?
Anderson: Currently, we are 648,000 square feet, and the NBA average is 775,000. After a MAPS 4 upgrade, we will be adding a net of 40,000 to 50,000. We will be repurposing some of the existing areas.
Will these renovations help bring Big 12 and NCAA tournaments back to OKC?
Anderson: I certainly hope so. But it's more than just the building. You have to have the facilities to target certain collegiate events. That stated, you also need a strong local sports commission. That's where the relationships are built with the NCAA, Big 12 and others. Options for that are being studied by the city and the private sector.
Lackmeyer: I will add that there are quite a few people in the sports and hospitality industry who believe problems within the now-defunct All Sports Association played a big part in Oklahoma City not getting any events during the last bidding.
When is the next bidding?
Anderson: NCAA is doing bids currently. They are not due for a few months. But we have an ad hoc task force including ADs (athletic directors) from OU and OSU and others in the sports industry.
I have season tickets in Loud City, and my wife and I love the experience. But once you get up there, there just aren't enough food and drink options. What is being done about that?
Anderson: There is no place currently to get something from the concession stands and sit down and eat except to go back to your seats. We intend to expand the 300 level out and add about 10,000 square feet to add its own dining area to sit and eat. It's placemaking. It's where people can gather, a social event.
OKC's concert game has picked up, but what else can we do to bring in big shows to this arena?
Semrau: We need to keep modernizing the facility and support shows by buying tickets. We want people to support live music in all capacities and venues in the market. We want to be known as a city that elevates concerts. There are incredible shows coming up that we still have tickets available for, including Carrie Underwood, Mumford and Sons and Guns and Roses. If shows are successful, they will want to come back.
Anderson: The Thunder is an informal partner and huge participant in promoting the concerts with their social media reach and their ad time.
Semrau: Over the past year, we have focused on fully integrating with our Thunder partner, while communicating to the industry the Thunder's willingness to leverage their assets not only to bring events to the market but also to help ensure their success.
It seems like Chesapeake Arena just got renovated. Why does it need more?
Anderson: The renovations are almost 10 years old now and have served us well.
Semrau: It's an industry standard that venues are built with a lifespan of about 30 years. We're almost about 20 years into the Chesapeake arena. If we do not continue to invest with the facility, we also should not expect the same level of touring content or events either.
Anderson: One of the things that determines the lifespan of an arena is the original design. The original design gave us the ability to add amenities or repurpose areas to enhance the guest experience. Those expectations change over time. We keep our hands on the pulse of those expectations.
When it was designed in the late 1990s, there was a photography dark room built. By 2002 everything had gone digital. It was out of date when it opened. Changes in technology is something we are always trying to keep up with and we're facing a lot of that right now. You don't want to be in this business unless you can do a good job at adapting and managing change.