New food, new sounds for Thunder basketball games

By Michael Kinney

Chesapeake Energy Arena executive chef Andrew Murin warns anyone who tries his English Sticky Toffee Pudding that they could become addicted.

“Everyone who has tried it goes on and on about it,” Murin said. “I’ve made this for about 15, 20 years.”

The sweet treat was one of many new food options on display recently at the arena as officials with SAVOR foodservice and Levy Restaurants presented new dining offerings now available through the Oklahoma City Thunder season.

Each year, the Thunder wants to make sure fans experience new and exciting things both on and off the court, Murin said. Research and testing help bring fans culinary experiences like no other venue in the NBA league.

Byrnes said the game menus reflect OKC’s growing diversity of food options.

“We also have to be considerate to the fact that in the last 10 years, as Oklahoma City has grown, there are so many new influences now in the culinary space,” Byrnes explained. “We’re being inspired by what entrepreneurs are doing and what the new restaurant groups are doing in creating a new experience for Oklahoma City in general. We need to be building experience to be as good or better than what any fan can get around the arena.” This year’s new options include the pork belly bánh mìsandwich, Okie Burger, Oklahoma Heat Dog, s’mores pizza, chicken and doughnut sandwich, Trio Street Tacos and biscuit and gravy varieties. An important theme this season, Byrnes said, is freshness.

Levy’s regional manager Joe Guthrie said that means making it easy for fans to get their food without missing the game.

“What we’ve really started learning about millennials is they want everything their way,” Guthrie said. “The food being prepared in front of you guarantees the food is fresh. It’s really a growing concept, and we’ve really tried to incorporate it into all of our stands.”

Sound improvements

In addition to upgrading palate experiences for fans, the Thunder also recently upgraded the hearing experience. During the offseason, Chesapeake Energy Arena’s 650,000 square-foot building was outfitted with a new sound system. Byrnes said it cost around $3 million. Part of that funding came out of Oklahoma City’s maintenance fund, which is dedicated to arena upkeep.

“Over the past couple of years, the one consistent area we felt like we were not meeting the fan expectations was the audio sound distribution,” Byrnes said. “There were fans, particularity in Loud City, that were getting a completely different experience than folks sitting just 10 feet away from them. … As we try to create a theater of experience.”

Story first appeared in The Oklahoma Gazette

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