Less than two months before it is to be unveiled to Oklahoma City Thunder players and their fans, the Ford Center's overhauled interior sits waiting like a present ready to be unwrapped.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Less than two months before it is to be unveiled to Oklahoma City Thunder players and their fans, the Ford Center's overhauled interior sits waiting like a present ready to be unwrapped.
Under thin layers of plastic wrap and paper are the new toys being bought with millions of dollars in tax money: rows of new leather seats near courtside, hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances in the suites, and tiles to line the walls of a lush courtside club.
Although plenty of work remains, members of a city committee got to see for the first time Tuesday the progress that has been made since the arena was closed after the NBA season ended in April.
"It's fun to see it develop," said Tom Anderson, the city's special projects manager.
Already hanging from the ceiling is the enormous new scoreboard that stands several stories tall, and crews are working two 10-hour shifts six days a week to complete the rest of the work by an October deadline.
Many of the upgraded retractable seats have been installed on the floor level, still under plastic. Plywood outlines show where 48 new terrace suites will be built on the club level. The suites, with four to six seats apiece, are aimed at customers who aren't ready to make the leap to a full luxury suite but want a little something more out of their night at the game.
The club suites themselves have been gutted and redone, with sheets of paper protecting the new carpeting and hardwood floors from the dust being kicked up by workers.
There's also the framework for the addition of bunker suites on the ground and entry levels, for groups wanting a private room in the regular seating bowl. Those who gain access to the courtside club will find a 103-inch television set and a fireplace the size of a small car.
Even the upper deck is getting a facelift. The concourse floors have a new glossy treatment, and new lighting is planned to brighten up the area. Most of the structural changes to the building have been done, and city officials believe most of the finishing touches will be done in time for an Oct. 3 Kings of Leon concert, the first event to be held in the remodeled arena. The first Thunder preseason game is nine days later.
"I'm real comfortable with the progress and the scheduling, and I'm very comfortable that we'll get done in time," Anderson said.
Sales tax collections continue to be behind schedule for the $100 million renovation project. The figures for July were $1.1 million below projections, for a total shortfall of $5.4 million just less than halfway into the 15-month tax collection period.
However, an accompanying practice facility has started out well below budget and the city hopes the two projects can combine to match the tax collections.
This summer's construction is the second of three phases in the total Ford Center renovation, which was promised before the franchise moved from Seattle. It also includes a larger, half-oval shaped locker room featuring 10-foot tall doorways for the Thunder adjoining a players' lounge, medical treatment area and interview room. There's also a new room for players' families that will include a nursery for children.
New offices for the coaching staff will be expanded in the last phase of the overhaul. That work also will include a practice gym backing up to the locker room and a grand entryway to the arena.