Thunder to now play in Chesapeake Energy Arena

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The Thunder have gone from gasoline to cleaner burning natural gas.

Sort of. The building Kevin Durant and teammates call home had been called the Ford Center since the team came to OKC based on an older naming rights deal. But with the new tenants and attention the building’s operators went looking for a new naming rights sponsor.

Enter Chesapeake Energy and hence the building is now formally called the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Like all such buildings, there will probably be a nickname for it soon enough (Cleveland’s Quicken Loan Arena is called The Q, and so on).

Chesapeake Energy is a 22-year-old company that is one of the largest natural gas companies in the nation. It is based out of Oklahoma City.

The deal is for $3 million a year for 12 years (with the amount increasing slightly each year), which is not bad in a smaller market like OKC.

Ford name to come off Thunder's Oklahoma City arena


fordcenter.jpgThe bidding is open — the Oklahoma City Arena where the Thunder play will be changing out its title sponsor. Gone will be Ford, in will be…

We don’t know.

But the Oklahoman tells us Ford is coming off. Ford bought the naming rights before the Thunder came to town, but a clause in the deal allows the Thunder to terminate the deal. Ford was paying less than $500,000 a year before, but with an NBA team there the figure should likely be in the $3 million range.

The Thunder gave Ford — specifically Oklahoma Ford dealers — a chance to come in at a new price, but that was too rich for their blood right now.

So who are likely bidders? What national corporations are based out of OKC?

As Tom Ziller first noted, Sonic Drive-In, the fastfood chain is. Talk about really rubbing salt in the wounds in Seattle — first you steal their Sonics and change their name to the Thunder, then you force the team to play in Sonic Stadium? Ouch.