Changes Ahead For Ford Center

The NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics are coming to Oklahoma City, whether the town is ready for the team or not.

After a lengthy legal battle, Sonics owner Clay Bennett was able to bow out of the remaining two years of the Sonics’ lease at Seattle’s KeyArena, leaving the team, which will receive a new name, ready to move into its new home at Oklahoma City’s Ford Center for the 2008-09 season.

But the early move means the city must scramble to begin roughly $100 million in renovations that were going to take place during the final two years the team was expected to stay in Seattle.

First up for the 19,711-capacity, city-owned Ford Center will be lighting, wiring and broadcast infrastructure upgrades to prepare the venue for game broadcasts before the team takes the court in less than four months, officials said at a recent press conference.

Other renovations including new restaurants, a family fun zone, bunker suites and loge boxes, as well as improvements to club suites, are expected to follow. However, it is unclear exactly when those upgrades will be done.

Officials said major improvements, including the construction of a warm-up area for the team and a loading dock, are expected to begin after the Big 12 basketball tournaments and women’s regional tournaments in March 2009, the Oklahoman reported. The venue will close down for about two months.