Paycom Center

Paycom Center (originally known as the Ford Center from 2002 to 2010, Oklahoma City Arena from 2010 to 2011, and Chesapeake Energy Arena from 2011 to 2021) is an arena located in Downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. It opened in 2002 and since 2008 has served as the home venue for the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s Oklahoma City Thunder. Previously, the arena was home to the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League (CHL) from 2002 until the team folded in July 2009, and the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz of AF2 from 2004 to 2009 when the team moved to the Prairie Surf Studios. In addition to its use as a sports venue, Paycom Center hosts concerts, family and social events, conventions, ice shows, and civic events. The arena is owned by the city and operated by the SMG property management company and has 18,203 seats in the basketball configuration, 15,152 for hockey, and can seat up to 16,591 for concerts.[4]

Paycom Center
"Loud City"
"The Thunderdome"
Paycom Center logo.svg
Paycom Center.jpg
Paycom Center in 2021
Paycom Center is located in Oklahoma
Paycom Center
Paycom Center
Location in Oklahoma
Paycom Center is located in the United States
Paycom Center
Paycom Center
Location in the United States
Former namesFord Center (2002–2010)
Oklahoma City Arena (2010–2011)
Chesapeake Energy Arena (2011–2021)
Address100 West Reno Avenue
LocationOklahoma City, Oklahoma
Coordinates35°27′48″N 97°30′54″W / 35.46333°N 97.51500°W / 35.46333; -97.51500
Public transitAmtrak Heartland Flyer
Tram interchange OKC Streetcar Arena
OwnerCity of Oklahoma City
OperatorASM Global
CapacityBasketball: 18,203
Hockey: 15,152
Concerts: 16,591
WWE/Boxing/MMA: 16,757
Broke groundMay 11, 1999[1]
OpenedJune 8, 2002
Construction costUS$89.2 million
ArchitectThe Benham Companies, LLC.
Sink Combs Dethlefs
Services engineerM-E Engineers, Inc.[2]
General contractorFlintco Construction Co.[3]
Oklahoma City Blazers (CHL) (2002–2009)
Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz (af2) (2004–2008)
New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets (NBA) (2005–2007)
Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA) (2008–present)
Oklahoma City Blue (NBAGL) (2021–present)

From 2005 to 2007, the arena also served as the temporary home for the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA when the Hornets were forced to play games elsewhere following extensive damage to New Orleans Arena and the city of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. During the two seasons in Oklahoma City, the team was known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. The response from fans while the Hornets played in Oklahoma City was an impetus to the city being discussed prior to 2008 for the location of a future NBA team, either by relocation or expansion.


The Ford Center was owned by Oklahoma City and was opened on June 8, 2002, three years after construction began.[5] The original Ford Center name came from a naming rights deal with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers group which represented the marketing efforts of the state's Ford dealerships, rather than the Ford Motor Company itself.[6]

The facility was the premier component of the city's 1993 Capital Improvement Program, known as Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), which financed new and upgraded sports, entertainment, cultural, and convention facilities primarily in the downtown section with a temporary 1-cent sales tax assessed. Despite the "metropolitan" moniker of the improvement program, the tax was only assessed inside city limits.[5]

Originally billed and marketed as a "state-of-the-art" facility, Oklahoma City Arena was actually constructed to minimum NBA and NHL specifications. The arena was built without luxury amenities because of local concerns on expenditures on an arena without a major-league tenant, with the ability to create "buildout" amenities and improvements to the arena if a professional sports team announced it would relocate to the city.

A plan for such buildout improvements began in 2007 in the wake of acquisition of the Seattle SuperSonics by an Oklahoma-City based ownership group in October 2006. Originally, city officials had hoped to include Oklahoma City Arena buildout improvements as part of a planned 2009 "MAPS 3" initiative. However, given the impending relocation decision of the Sonics ownership group in late 2007, the City Council of Oklahoma City placed a sales tax initiative on the city election ballot on March 4, 2008.[7] This initiative was passed by a 62% to 38% margin, and extended a prior one-cent sales tax for a period of 15 months in order to fund $121 million in budgeted improvements to the arena, as well as fund a separate practice facility for a relocated franchise.[7]

Subsequent to the ballot initiative, City officials and Sonics ownership announced a preliminary agreement to move the Sonics franchise to Oklahoma City and the Ford Center. The deal included a provision for $1.6 million in annual rents to the City for use of the Ford Center (including marketing rights of luxury seating areas for all NBA and most non-NBA events), and a $409,000 annual supplemental payment in exchange for a transfer of arena naming rights and associated revenue to the Sonics franchise.[8] The franchise move was approved by NBA ownership on April 18, 2008.[8]

On August 26, 2010, the franchise, by then renamed the Oklahoma City Thunder, announced that they had begun negotiating naming rights to its home arena with new potential partners. The facility was called the Ford Center and signage throughout the building remained intact during the negotiation period.[6] The Thunder previously had discussions with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers; however, a new agreement could not be reached.[6] As a result of the failed negotiation with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers, the Thunder decided to terminate the existing naming rights agreement, which was allowed under the original contract.[6] On October 21, 2010, because of the ongoing negotiation for the naming rights for the arena, and because of its failed negotiation with the Oklahoma Ford Dealers, it was announced that the arena would be called the Oklahoma City Arena. The new name was used temporarily until naming rights were settled.[9]

On July 22, 2011, a 12-year naming rights partnership between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chesapeake Energy Corporation was announced. The agreement has an initial annual cost of $3 million with a 3% annual escalation.[10] As part of the deal, the arena will be renamed Chesapeake Energy Arena.[10] Also, Chesapeake Energy was allowed to place its branding throughout the building, on prominent premium places on the high-definition scoreboard, and on new state-of-the-art interior and exterior digital signs. Most of the new signs were in place before the start of the Thunder's 2011–12 season.[10] The company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 28, 2020, with a debt of $9 billion, with the effect on the arena's naming rights not yet known at that time.[11] However, on April 20, 2021, the company terminated the deal as part of its corporate restructuring. The arena retained its name during the Thunder's search for a new sponsor.[12]

On July 27, 2021, it was announced that Paycom will acquire the naming rights for the arena for a 15-year period, renaming it Paycom Center.[13]

Seating capacityEdit

Basketball seating capacity at the arena has adjusted with the venue configuration:

Years Capacity

Arena informationEdit

The 581,000-square-foot (54,000 m2) facility seats up to 19,711 on three seating levels with a fourth added during concerts and features 3,380 club seats, seven party suites, and 49 private suites. It is located immediately across the street from the Cox Convention Center, a marketing point often used by city officials (since Cox Center itself has a 15,000-seat arena). It also features The OLD NO. 7 Club, a full-service restaurant and bar. Several other exclusive dining options are also available at The Pub, a 1,576-square-foot (146.4 m2) "Irish Pub" themed bar, and at The Courtside Club, a 6,198-square-foot (575.8 m2) restaurant and lounge area, as well as at the Victory Club, Sunset Carvery, and the new Terrace Lounges.


On March 4, 2008, the citizens of Oklahoma City passed a $121.6 million initiative designed to renovate and expand the Chesapeake Energy Arena and to build a practice facility for the relocated Seattle SuperSonics team which is now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder. Financing consists of a temporary 15-month, 1-cent sales tax that will be paid by Oklahoma City residents and shoppers beginning January 1, 2009.

The city held the temporary tax initiative in March 2008 to facilitate the relocation of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics or another relocation franchise. It is expected that the refurbishment will turn the Chesapeake Energy Arena into a top-tier NBA facility.

Some of the planned upgrades to the Chesapeake Energy Arena include upscale restaurants, clubs, additional suites (including so-called 'bunker suites'), office space, Kid's Zone, additional concessions, flooring upgrades, an integrated video and scoring system from Daktronics, view lounges, and upgraded 'general use' locker rooms.[14] NBA specific amenities include 'NBA ONLY' locker rooms and facilities, a practice court, media broadcast facilities, lighting, and sound, an NBA press room, an onsite NBA and team store, and ticket/staff rooms.[15] It is anticipated that the Oklahoma City Thunder team will lease the new office space.

Renovation work on the arena was delayed due to a sales tax receipt shortfall during the 2008–10 economic crisis; eventual tax receipts totaled $103.5 million rather than the projected $121 million.[16] The shortfall was accommodated by revising plans for certain features of the arena expansion project, including limiting the size of a new glass entryway, and eliminating a practice court planned for above the delivery entrance of the arena.[17] Major construction work on the arena expansion was also delayed from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011. Similar revisions were made to the plans for the Thunder's separate practice facility, for a total cost savings of approximately $14 million.[18] The Thunder's practice facility completion date was similarly pushed back to approximately March 2011.[19]


The Paycom Center hosts a number of games and events from Oklahoma City University, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University along with those from local high schools and post-secondary organizations. It is also used for other events, including major concert tours, conventions, National Hockey League preseason and exhibition games, and notably professional wrestling shows.

College sportsEdit

It hosted the 2007 Big 12 men's basketball tournament for the first time in 2007 (with the 2007 Big 12 women's basketball tournament held across the street at Cox Convention Center). The venue has hosted the NCAA Men's Basketball First and Second Round on several occasions (including 2010 and 2016) and is the permanent host of the All-College Basketball Classic. It hosted the 2009 Big 12 Conference Men's Basketball Tournament. In March 2014, the arena played host to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.


New Orleans HornetsEdit

After the city of New Orleans, and surrounding area was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the NBA reached a deal with the City of Oklahoma City which allowed the New Orleans Hornets franchise to temporarily move to the Paycom Center (then known as the Ford Center). The New Orleans Hornets leased the facility for the 2005–06 season and exercised the option with the city to extend for the 2006–07 season. The arena acquired a $200,000 renovation (primarily to lighting and sound) as part of the Hornets' lease. During this time, the team was known as the "New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets", giving Oklahoma City credit for hosting the 'home team'.[20] The Hornets played their last game in Oklahoma City on October 9, 2007, a preseason game.[21]

The hosting of the Hornets arguably gave Oklahoma City the edge it needed to land on the radar of professional sports. Long being considered by many as too small to host a major-league team for a variety of reasons, support for the Hornets during their two-year stay caught the attention of the NBA and other sports leagues. Attendance for Hornets games at the Paycom Center (then known as the Ford Center) averaged 18,716 fans in 2005–06 (36 games) and 17,951 fans (35 games) in 2006–07. David Stern was quoted as stating that "Oklahoma City was at the top of the relocation list of cities" and during the Hornets' last home game he all but assured local fans that "I look forward to the day that the NBA will return to Oklahoma City."[22]

Oklahoma City ThunderEdit

Oklahoma City hosted and defeated Minnesota for their first win.

Oklahoma City billionaire investor Clay Bennett of the Professional Basketball Club LLC purchased the Seattle SuperSonics and Seattle Storm franchises from Howard Schultz in 2006. The deal included a provision that gave Seattle officials one year to solve its arena situation or allow Bennett to seek relocation.

After an April 2008 league approval, it was announced on July 2, 2008 that the Sonics franchise would be relocating to Oklahoma City and would play at what was then the Ford Center.[23] The agreement retires the "SuperSonics" moniker, color, and logos, possibly to be used by a future NBA team in Seattle. On September 2, 2008, the team announced they would be called the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder have been a playoff mainstay since arriving in Oklahoma. Chesapeake Energy Arena hosted playoff games every year between 2010 and 2014, as well as 2016. In 2012, the arena became host of the NBA Finals for the only time to date, when the Thunder went up against the Miami Heat for the league championship. The Thunder won Game 1 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in convincing fashion, but lost the last four games and the championship to the Heat.

On March 11, 2020, a game between the Thunder and the Utah Jazz that was to be held at the arena was initially postponed after Jazz center Rudy Gobert was placed on the injury list due to an illness. After it was learned that Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the NBA announced that the remainder of the 2019–20 season would be suspended immediately following the conclusion of that night's games. This incident would eventually result in the cancellation of all sports events throughout North America and the rest of the world, as the COVID-19 outbreak had been declared as a pandemic by WHO earlier that day.

MMA and professional wrestlingEdit

The arena has hosted many WWE events such as Raw, SmackDown, and Unforgiven 2005. Raw came to the Chesapeake Energy Arena on September 25, 2006, and March 1, 2010, with Cheech & Chong appearing as the evening's guest hosts. During the show on September 25, 2006, the opening of the show suffered a blackout, but lights were restored shortly after the night began.

On September 16, 2009, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to Oklahoma[24] for the first time since UFC 4, which was at the Expo Square Pavilion in Tulsa on December 16, 1994. A mixed martial arts event returned to the arena on January 12, 2013, with the Strikeforce: Champions event.[25]

Other eventsEdit

The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) held a Premier Series event at the venue from 2002 to 2006, and again from 2009 to 2022. From 2007 to 2008, the PBR’s Challenger Tour finals event was held there. Since 2022, Paycom Center has been the home venue of the PBR’s Oklahoma Freedom during the PBR Team Series season held in the summer and autumn.

The 2015 North American Youth Congress (NAYC) of the United Pentecostal Church was held in the arena. The event sold out and the Cox Convention Center across the street used as overflow with video streamed from across the street.


  1. ^ Lackmeyer, Steve (May 12, 1999). "Company to Manage Both Downtown Arenas". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  2. ^ "Ford Center Oklahoma City, Oklahoma". M-E Engineers, Inc. Archived from the original on March 16, 2008. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  3. ^ "What's on Deck". SportsBusiness Journal. July 30, 2001. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  4. ^ "Chesapeake Energy Arena - Fast Facts - Capacities". Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Overview". Ford Center. Archived from the original on October 27, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d Rohde, John (August 26, 2010). "Ford Center Name to Change". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City. Retrieved August 27, 2010.
  7. ^ a b Knapp, Adam. "Ford Center Arena Improvement Plan". Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  8. ^ a b DiTore, Larry (April 18, 2008). "NBA Owners Approve SuperSonics' Move to Oklahoma". Bloomberg. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  9. ^ "Ford Center Is Now The Oklahoma City Arena". KOCO. Oklahoma City. Archived from the original on September 29, 2011. Retrieved October 21, 2010.
  10. ^ a b c "OKC Arena to be Renamed Chesapeake Energy Arena". Oklahoma City Thunder. July 21, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
  11. ^ Young, Royce (28 March 2020). "Chesapeake Energy Corporation, company with ties to Thunder, files for bankruptcy". Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  12. ^ "Thunder Plans Transition to New Arena Naming Rights Partner". Oklahoma City Thunder. April 20, 2021. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  13. ^ "Thunder, Paycom Announce 15-Year Arena Naming Rights Agreement". (Press release). NBA Media Ventures, LLC. July 27, 2021. Retrieved July 30, 2021.{{cite press release}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ "New Scoreboard Designed with Fans in Mind". Oklahoma City Thunder. June 1, 2009. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  15. ^ "Voters Approve $121.6 Million in Arena Upgrades to Lure NBA Team". ESPN. Associated Press. March 5, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  16. ^ "MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board Presentation" (PDF). City of Oklahoma City. August 24, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 11, 2016. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  17. ^ Rohde, John (August 8, 2010). "Ford Center Practice Gym Eliminated from Renovations". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  18. ^ Baldwin, Mike (July 7, 2010). "Oklahoma City Might Save as Much as $14 Million on Ford Center Renovations, Practice Facility". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  19. ^ Rohde, John (November 16, 2010). "Thunder Practice Facility Set for March Completion". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  20. ^ Rhode, John (November 8, 2006). "Hornets Nest Spruced Up Ford Center". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  21. ^ Mayberry, Darnell (October 10, 2007). "Fans Thank Hornets for the Memories". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  22. ^ "Stern Looking Forward to NBA's Return to Oklahoma City". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City. April 13, 2007. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  23. ^ Ellis, Randy; Casteel, Chris (July 3, 2008). "Now That Seattle Lawsuit Has Been Settled, the NBA Is on Its Way Here to Stay". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma City. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  24. ^ "UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Guillard". UFC. September 16, 2009. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  25. ^ "Strikeforce confirms Jan. 12 event is final Showtime broadcast". December 20, 2012.

External linksEdit

Events and tenants
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first arena
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