Three things Thunder super fan Juan Guerra likes about getting a new arena

Three things Thunder super fan Juan Guerra likes about getting a new arena

OKLAHOMA CITY — Juan Guerra is something of an expert on Paycom Arena. After all, he has been there for every Thunder game. Yes, the lifelong Oklahoma City resident has been at every Thunder home game since the team came to town in 2008. When I asked him how many games his consecutive streak had [...]

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Sep 19, 2023, 6:00am CDT

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Sep 19, 2023, 6:00am CDT

OKLAHOMA CITY — Juan Guerra is something of an expert on Paycom Arena.

After all, he has been there for every Thunder game.

Yes, the lifelong Oklahoma City resident has been at every Thunder home game since the team came to town in 2008. When I asked him how many games his consecutive streak had reached, he had to look up the number on his phone.

“Six twenty-one,” he said finally.

That’s 621 games.

Not counting the 2020-21 season when no fans were allowed because of COVID, Guerra hasn’t missed a Thunder home game, regular season or playoffs. Not because of bad weather. Not because he was sick. Not because it was a weeknight, some awful team was in town and he would’ve rather stayed home with his family.

“We got another 25 years, so we’ll see how long that lasts,” Guerra said.

Guerra, of course, was referring to the contract extension the Thunder has agreed to with the city as long as voters vote to build a new arena. Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt revealed a plan last week, and next week, the city council will vote on whether the plan will be put on the ballot in December.

With talk swirling about a new arena, Guerra’s attendance at so many Thunder games gives him a unique perspective on the current downtown arena. When he started his streak of games, he sat in the 300s, Loud City. He moved down to the 200s a few years ago, and now, he sits courtside. His seats are just down from the Thunder bench; OKC coach Mark Daigneault often ends up standing directly in front of Guerra during game action.

He’s seen games from just about every angle.

So what does he think about leaving Paycom Center?

Here are three things this Thunder super fan likes about getting a new arena:

Having a better vibe in the arena. Guerra doesn’t just go to Thunder games in OKC. He has traveled to other cities in recent years to see the Thunder play, too. Sacramento. Milwaukee. New York. In the future, he hopes OKC has some of the things those arenas have, such as better accessibility and more room to move around.

“It’s pretty tight at Paycom just because it wasn’t really built for that,” Guerra said of an arena that was originally designed with an eye toward OKC landing an NHL team. “People don’t realize how tight all the spaces are as opposed to some of those newer (arenas). They do have a little bit more space. They’ve got a couple extra tunnels, extra exits, extra entrances and such.”

He would also like to see an arena that rises more vertically. He noticed that arena style in Minneapolis when he attended the Thunder’s play-in game against the Timberwolves last season, but he says it’s similar to Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena.

“It’s like you’re kind of right on top of it,” he said.

There’s also a chance to have cool, funky amenities in a new arena. At Madison Square Garden, for example, a sky bridge was built when the arena received a $1 billion facelift a few years ago. The area suspended over the fixed seating includes barstools right at a glassed-in edge.

“It’s not for me, but it looks cool,” Guerra said with a laugh. “It’s probably a dope view for somebody. If you’re OK with the heights.”

The chance to grow Oklahoma City’s business. Guerra is an entrepreneur who has grown his sneaker business, Kicklahoma, into a premier retailer for exclusive kicks and gear, so he realizes what a new arena (and an extension on the Thunder’s contract) could mean for business in Oklahoma City.

“That’s 25 years of jobs, parking, all these other things that go around it,” he said. 

The price tag on the new arena will be at least $900 million, hardly chump change, but Guerra pointed to the new globe in Las Vegas, officially known as the MSG Sphere. Yes, it cost $2 billion to build, but the events, attention and money it will draw will more than pay for that price tag.

Guerra believes a new arena in OKC will draw additional revenue, too, maybe even something like an All-Star Game.

“Why would you have an All-Star Game in Milwaukee?” he said of reports earlier this year that the Bucks bid for the 2025 and 2026 games. “They got a new arena.”

Keep the city growing. Guerra is a lifelong Oklahoma Citian. 

“I was basically born and raised right across from where the boathouses are now,” he said.

Guerra, 33, grew up south of the Oklahoma River, went to school in the Crooked Oak district, and when he looked toward downtown Oklahoma City in the late 1990s, he saw a whole lot of nothing.

“There’s no Sonic. No riverwalk. None of that,” he said. “So just to see the amount of stuff that keeps being built?”

He marvels at all of it, but he’s a believer the city shouldn’t feel like it has done everything it needs to do. Complacency isn’t the way to go. Extravagance isn’t either — as a business owner, he understands you have to be smart about expenses — but if the arena is built on land the city already owns, the current Prairie Surf Studios location for example, that would help with the cost.

“They’re using the city’s land, and the team’s gonna put $50 million for a building that’s owned by the city,” Guerra said. “This is a W.”

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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