Part II - The home teams' new home
Who might be the most thankful for the new BOK Center? Two local sports teams.
Two of the biggest beneficiaries of the BOK Center’s opening appear to be its two professional sports tenants, the Central Hockey League’s Tulsa Oilers and the Tulsa Talons of Arena Football League 2. Officials at both clubs are enthusiastic about their new home after playing for years at the Tulsa Convention Center.
One of the biggest differences for both teams is their ability to enhance their game-night presentation.
“Our presentation was, ‘Turn off the lights, play a little music and turn the lights back on,’” Oilers General Manager Taylor Hall says of life at the Convention Center.
But the BOK Center’s mammoth scoreboard, video boards and LED ring screen add a variety of elements to that presentation that weren’t available before.
“Anything that we could do at the Convention Center is about 10 times better now,” Hall says. “It is just amazing.”
The Talons, the 2007 af2 champions, didn’t play their first game in the new arena until March 28, but General Manager Corey McIntyre is expecting the move to have a positive impact on attendance.
“We’re expecting it to go up,” he says. “Our attendance was up 14 percent last year, and we’re expecting it to increase that much again this year, maybe more.”
Despite an economic downturn, McIntyre based his projections on early season-ticket sales, which in late January were already ahead of last year’s totals at the same time.
The Oilers have already seen an attendance bump, according to Media Relations Director Steve McCall. They played their first game in the new building Oct. 25, 2008, against rival Oklahoma City, attracting 16,982 fans, easily a Tulsa Oilers record.
McCall says the club averaged 5,328 fans per contest through its first 28 home games this year, compared with an average of 4,210 fans per contest for all of last season. And McCall is optimistic that average will increase, as attendance often climbs late in the season.
Hall says the move has transformed his product.
“Beforehand, it really was minor-league hockey when it was at the Convention Center,” he says. “It had basically been the same event since the ’60s. Now it really is a major event.”