I was fortunate to have the opportunity to catch a recent Thunder game….
Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
Welcome back. The date was September 2, 2008 when big time professional basketball in Oklahoma was born. The Ford Center in Oklahoma City had been completed in 2002 so with a new home constructed to NBA standards already in place; the former Seattle Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder. The following year, after negotiations with Ford over the naming rights broke down, Chesapeake Energy stepped up and the Center was renamed the Chesapeake Energy Arena in a 12 year multi-million dollar deal.
I visited the arena on Sunday to watch the Thunder play the Chicago Bulls. Before the game started I had time to take a tour and I learned that the arena seats 19,675 for an NBA game and includes 3,380 club seats, 7 party suites and 46 private suites. From top to bottom I didn’t see a seat I wouldn’t be happy with. I also found out that if you’re short of cash there’s still a way to go to a game. Two hours before every home game the Thunder gives away 50 pairs of tickets. You have to line up, write your name on a piece of paper and then wait to see if they draw it. I checked things out and discovered that at most only around 200 people brave the elements and wait. Seems like good odds to me and the pre-game party atmosphere outside where they hold the drawing was also a lot of fun.
Through my research I also found that Flintco was the contractor for the arena and that it took 3 years to build at a cost of 89.2 million dollars. That’s 115 million in today’s money and worth every penny in my estimation. Oklahoma City owns the facility which was built as the anchor of the extremely successful downtown revitalization project known as MAPS.
As for Sunday’s game with the Chicago Bulls, the Bulls couldn’t stop the 6’3” 187 pound Russell Westbrook on this night. You throw in 6’9”, 235 pound, NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant and a big handful of other talented guys; mix them up and the Bulls were toast by the end of the third quarter.
During TV timeouts and half time, the Thunder’s entertainment crew kept the sold out crowd enthused with all kinds of crowd pleasing activities. One of my favorites was the multi barrel T shirt shooting machine gun that sprayed hundreds of T shirts into the crowd, even up to the highest seats. The Thunder mascot, acrobats and their cheerleaders were also on hand to keep things lively. There was also plenty of food and drink available with choices ranging from full service restaurants to a wide variety of food vendors. This is where I discovered a Bartlesville connection to the Thunder.
Sunday’s game was nationally televised and between local TV sportscasters, ESPN crews and a national feed, there was dozens of high tech camera men on the scene. Yes Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder team are NBA superstars but the people working behind the scenes to bring the games to you are also superstars in their own field. I ran into two Bartlesville graduates who were filming for Fox Sports on Sunday. 1981 Col High alum, Monte Seaborn has been operating a hand held video camera professionally since 1995 and he is much in demand with networks like Fox and ESPN. Some of you may remember his dad, Richard Seaborn, who coached wrestling in the 1970s.
I also got the chance to visit with John Neptune who was operating out of Fox’s control truck which all of the video was streaming through. A 1970 grad like me, John had a long career at Phillips Petroleum which took him all over the world. Then he was offered a deal which led him to sports television. The job is called “video operator” and apparently John is one of the best. With free lance contracts for the big networks, John works out a semi sized mobile unit holding literally hundreds of video monitors. From football games to hockey, and of course basketball, John’s job is making sure that all of us watching at home see every play.
Here’s the scoop: You definitely want to catch the Thunder in action and don’t forget to look for Monte and John. Till next week I’ll see ya down the road……