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Big 12 Basketball Coming Back To OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The way Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett sees it, the Big 12 Conference paid the city the ultimate compliment on Thursday.

At a meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., the Big 12's board of directors approved a proposal to hold the league's 2009 postseason basketball tournaments in Oklahoma City. The decision came about 2 1/2 months after Oklahoma City hosted those tournaments for the first time.

The league already had set the 2008 tournaments for Kansas City, Mo., so Cornett noted Thursday night that ``they came back as soon as they could ... What I had promised the Big 12 is that if we got a chance, it would be the best championship they would ever have. I think we delivered on that.''

The league also chose Kansas City as the host for the tournaments in 2010 and 2011. Kansas City's new arena, the Sprint Center, soon will open, and a renovated Municipal Auditorium also will be used for the tournaments.

Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Dallas, Tulsa and Omaha, Neb., had submitted bids for the tournaments for a five-year period. Cornett was in Colorado Springs on Tuesday to promote Oklahoma City's bid and said he came away encouraged that the city ``had a good chance to get another tournament or two.''

Oklahoma City also will host NCAA women's tournament regionals in 2008 and 2009, as well as an NCAA men's tournament subregional in 2010.

This year, Oklahoma City used the Ford Center for the Big 12 men's tournament and the Cox Convention Center for the women's event. The arenas are located across a street from each other, and during the tournament, Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg praised the easy access between the arenas for fans.

The women's tournament drew a record 48,990 fans _ the old mark was 35,619 _ and had three of the top five sessions in terms of attendance in Big 12 history.

The Big 12's decision to return to Oklahoma City ``shows that we've proven that we can host big-time events,'' Cornett said. ``Five cities competed for these championships, and those are cities we compete against frequently. It feels good to be the winner.''

Cornett said the tournaments provide a $40 million economic impact and ``invaluable'' national publicity ``that you really can't measure.''

He said Oklahoma City will continue to bid for future Big 12 basketball tournaments.
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