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Official Review by Nick Stevens, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The mothership has landed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Bank of Oklahoma Center, commonly known as the BOK Center, is a state-of-the-art arena that is simply stunning. Designed by world-renowned architect César Pelli, whose other works include the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the BOK Center sits in futuristic contrast to the rest of staid downtown Tulsa.
Outside, the arena is a swirling confluence of shimmering glass and sparkling stainless steel that appear to have more in common with Coruscant than Tulsa. Inside, you are greeted by a spacious, multi level promenade that stretches upwards to the full height of the arena. This vast atrium, bounded by the exterior glass walls, ensures no traffic flow issues even with the largest of crowds. An abundance of natural light combined with a brightly lit interior on white accents further contributes to the space ship feel of the exterior. This is really a world-class, major-league arena in a minor-league town.
The BOK Center tenants include the Central Hockey League Tulsa Oilers and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Tulsa Shock. While the Oiler name in Tulsa goes all the way back to 1926, this version of the Oilers dates their history to the founding of the CHL in 1992.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
An interesting mix of basic arena offerings and local vendors are found throughout the BOK Center. In the Raw features a variety of sushi while Billy's seems to pretty much fry anything, including a spread of gourmet burgers. The local Dickey's Barbecue Pit is your BBQ choice. The Dog House has all kinds of specialty hot dogs. If you are looking for more mundane fare, the standard pizza, burgers and fries can be found in the regular concession stands.
For suds, it is a bit disappointing. All the standard concessions have the regular Budweiser and Bud Light brews, but not much else. One stand does have Shiner Bock, but in this part of the Oklahoma/Texas world that is about as hard to find as oil in the ground. However, one stand does have 16oz $2 drafts on Tuesday nights, but this is limited to the basic domestics.
The arena itself vastly outshines the action inside. Possibly due to the small crowd during my particular visit, and the poor record of the 2012-2013 Oilers, outside of the intermittent steam of blaring 80's hair-metal and unintelligible announcements, it was pretty lifeless. Expectations are high when you walk into a massive crystal palace that stands in such stark contrast to the rest of downtown Tulsa. Reality quickly intervenes, unfortunately, as the atmosphere seems mostly forced and contrived rather than organic. The scoreboard is massive, especially compared to other CHL venues, and fits nicely into the scale of the BOK Center. The team mascot is an oil rig worker, who, to his credit, does don a pair of skates to hit the ice. If the upper sections were not blocked off with black curtains, the small crowd would have seemed downright minuscule in proportion to the full-sized arena.
The BOK Center sits in the middle of downtown Tulsa. The downtown area is relatively small and quite walkable. Both the Hyatt Regency and Doubletree are a short walk from the arena. For a pre-game diner, the Daily Grill is a good choice and is located within the Hyatt. Outside of downtown, Tulsa is a vast suburban city that is spread out over nearly 200 square miles.
The fans were few during my visit, a cold and rainy Tuesday night. While the official paid attendance was stated at over 3,000, there seemed to be no more than 500-600 people actually in the seats. While there were a few quite vocal patrons and many did occasionally get noisy, it was a pretty sedate crowd. Again, this might be more of expectations vs reality, but the scale of this arena is more fit for the NHL Edmonton Oilers game than the CHL Tulsa Oilers.
The BOK Center is surrounded by both covered and open pay parking lots. Parking directly across the street costs $5. Interstates 244 and 44 are right nearby and part of a mini beltway that surrounds the downtown area. Tulsa International Airport is about 10 miles away. The highways are heavily trafficked, so if you are staying outside of downtown allow plenty of travel time.
The BOK Center has no shortage of bathrooms, both family and communal, so there are no waits in between beverage runs.
Tulsa Oiler tickets range from $15 to $45, which is about average for CHL teams. The upper sections are closed and blocked off by curtains, so even the $15 seats are in the lower bowl, meaning there are no bad seats. Shockingly, despite the BOK Center being state-of-the-art in almost all respects, the online ticketing system is a bit antiquated. While most other CHL teams allow you to click on the exact individual seat you wish to purchase via online seating charts, the BOK Center only gives you the option of choosing price levels with not even the choice of individual sections. If you want a specific seat or even a specific section, call the box office.
The BOK Center gets two full points for being the BOK Center. It is absolutely spectacular and an unexpected jewel in the middle of Tulsa.
The BOK Center is truly exceptional. A gleaming swirl of glass and steel, it rises like a beaming vortex out of downtown Tulsa. Outside of that, once you peek behind the crystal curtain, the overall experience is quite average.
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616 W Seventh St
Tulsa, OK 74127
100 E 2nd St
Tulsa, OK 74103