A First Look At The Ford Center Renovations

Come the regular season, the new scoreboard inside the Ford Center will literally feel like it’s in your face.

I was walking down the Ford Center loading dock on a recent afternoon, on the way to get my first look at this state-of-the-art board, when it immediately caught my attention.

Considering I was nearly 100 yards away from the arena floor and the sun was out in full force, it really says something. It was as bright as could be.

The Thunder’s sparkling new scoreboard, courtesy of Daktronics, grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

The scoreboard will be the most recognizable upgrade inside the Ford Center this season, but there’s plenty more that will meet the eye.

Think subtle changes. Think a newer, more vibrant Loud City.

It’s like one of those extreme makeovers that will take a few years.

I had a chance to tour the under-construction Ford Center last week and am here to give you a sneak peak at the changes inside.

The Ford Center hardly looks like its old self upon entry. Working crews are doing their thing, following blue prints, operating heavy machinery, etc. Most of the seats inside the Ford Center are covered in plastic.

But the scoreboard is the center of attention.

Thanks to an abundance of panels, it could have as many as four things happening at once. On this day, there was a Rumble and Thunder Girls feature on one panel, a fireworks display on another and the American flag on the top panel.

It’s a complete multi-tasking experience.

A 360-degree LED ring is situated on the top of the board and could host a number of complimentary videos or team messaging. Beneath that are four rectangular video panels, one on each side, with full-motion video that will showcase the vitals – score, points, fouls, timeouts, game clock, etc. Beneath that is the mother load of all game-action/replay monitors: four super-huge center-hung panels. In between those are four horizontal digital panels that will feature sponsor messaging.

Quite possibly the most intriguing aspect of the scoreboard is the tilted video panels that form a v-shaped wedge on the bottom of the board.

The panels, referred to as the wedge board, are the brainchild of Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett, and they’re angled so that you can see the video from a normal line of sight if you’re sitting on the floor or are around that level.

No other arena scoreboard in the league has such a feature.

“Clay thought this up, he challenged the designers to think of a better way to present video and the center-hung scoreboard presentation not just to the fans that are sitting in the lower seats and the courtside seats but also the players, the officials, the coaches – anybody who is working – the media, anyone who’s working on the footprint of the floor,” Thunder Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service Brian Byrnes said. “With these new scoreboards, because of how big and dynamic they are, they’re often very hard to see the closer you are.”

That won’t be a problem this season because the Thunder has a scoreboard that looks like it’s on steroids.

Moving on, as eye-catchy as the scoreboard is, the renovations in Loud City are equally as impressive.

The flooring has been redone to the point where the entire concrete pathway in Loud City has been ground to its original core and finished with a new base that highlights more color, stone and gives a shine almost to a marbling affect.

It’s unique in the sense that the every runway leading to the seating area will have a Thunder blue reflective finish.

Red and yellow, the Thunder’s other colors, will be used in a similar manner as accent colors in the common areas and near concessions.

“There’s kind of a color differentiation as you walk through the building about what’s going on,” Byrnes said. “When you see reds and yellows you know that you’re in common areas, you’re in food courts. When you see blue, you’re being invited to come into Loud City.”

Another subtle change to Loud City is the finished ceiling in the concourse. Last season, it was all exposed concrete. It’s since been finished with dry wall and painted either white or sand.

Why is that important?

Because the Thunder added more light fixtures that didn’t exist, and they’ll point in two directions as opposed to last season when all the light was directed upward, which created a shadowing effect.

Now when you walk in, there’s new lighting fixtures on the exterior panels that points up and down, creating a flood of light that goes six to eight feet deep.

Plus, there will be an additional lighting grid at every entryway that will point light six feet downward.

“When you go up to Loud City, your experience as a fan should be more fun,” Byrnes said. “Again, it’s a first impression. Your first impression getting onto the Loud City concourse should be one that’s inviting, it’s fun, it’s colorful, it’s bright, it’s an invitation for fun.”

Contact Chris Silva