Oklahoma City – New details tonight on what was once stated as a $600,000 “needed” improvement for the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
On Tuesday, Oklahoma City Council members approved plans for a remodel and expansion of the lounge used by family members of the Thunder basketball team.
The document given to council members beforehand said the upgrades would be necessary to meet the latest NBA guidelines. But we found that is not the case.
City Manager Jim Couch said only money generated by arena events, not taxpayers’ money, will be used for the project.
The Thunder family room, in part, helps keep the players focused on winning without distractions.
City officials say it’s time for an upgrade.
“Experience has shown us over the last few years that the room is just not large enough to accommodate all of the family,” OKC Special Projects Manager Tom Anderson said.
The city council unanimously approved a plan to advertise bids for “upgrades that will be necessary to meet the latest NBA guidelines.”
$350,000 for expansion of the players family lounge.
$250,000 for three new arena promoters’ offices.
While many NBA teams have lounges for players’ families, Couch said the lounge “expansion” is not actually an NBA guideline, and the line on the council memorandum was a mistake.
Anderson said the lounge is still needed.
“It is consistent with our agreement with the Thunder to evaluate the facility and look at improvements that may be necessary that enhances the fan experience or enhances basketball operations.” he said.
While a larger players’ family lounge does not enhance the fans’ experience, officials say the Arena Capital Improvements fund – which had $1.8 million prior to this project – has been used to improve seating, bathrooms, restaurants, etc. for the fans.
Anderson said the Thunder pay into that fund close to $450,000 a year to have arena naming rights.
City council member Ed Shadid says that doesn’t make the family lounge a priority.
“Now that I know (family room expansion) is not an NBA requirement, then I would want to know what the other priorities are,” he said Wednesday. “If I saw (other arena improvements) that I thought were of a higher priority or benefit to the public, I would not hesitate to argue that the Thunder should pay for this.”
Bids for the project will come in later this month.
Both the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies told us they also have a players’ family lounge.
Anderson said the Thunder’s players’ family lounge would expand from 1,201 square feet to 2,629 square feet.