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If You Build it They Will Come

Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 12:00:00 am

From raucous Thunder crowds to the biggest names in music, Chesapeake Energy Arena has been the epicenter for big league entertainment since its opening more than a decade ago. While the arena opened in 2002, its story traces back even further to 1993 with the passage of MAPS.

If you haven’t learned what MAPS is yet, here is a brief overview: in the early 90s OKC was looking to turn things and rebuild its economy after a bust cycle in the energy industry and a banking crisis. The citizens voted to tax themselves to build nine projects that would help raise the quality of life in the metro area. In the two decades since, MAPS has spurred billions in private investment and kicked off a modern day renaissance in OKC.

No project has exemplified Oklahoma City’s can-do attitude like the arena. The Ford Center (as it was called when it opened – today you know it as the Chesapeake Energy Arena) seated more than 19,000 and was designed to NHL or NBA specifications. Some mocked the idea and said OKC was wasting time and money to build an NBA-quality arena. At the time the thought of NBA basketball in OKC was a pie-in-the-sky dream to even the most dedicated sports fans. Still, the citizens knew that if the opportunity arose, OKC would be ready to capitalize.

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans) needed a home while their arena was repaired. Oklahoma City was one of the few cities that had an NBA arena ready to go, so the Hornets temporarily moved to OKC for two seasons and the rest was history. OKC’s support of the team blew away even the most optimistic supporters and proved Oklahoma City was a big league city.  The Thunder relocated and just four years later the arena that some thought shouldn’t even get built was hosting an NBA finals. 

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