Oklahoma City to reap benefits of NBA team's arrival

Sunday, September 25th 2005, 12:19 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The relocation of the NBA's New Orleans Hornets to Oklahoma City will bring an estimated $57 million impact on ther local economy, according to a study released by the city.

The study shows money from the NBA team spreading to all corners of the state, helping government budgets and bolstering business.

And while local businesses stand to reap tens of millions of dollars, officials say other long-term rewards are in store as well.

``The biggest benefit we're going to get out of this whole deal is Oklahoma City's name being in every newspaper, on every TV, every radio station for the whole season and beyond,'' former Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick said. ``You cannot buy that kind of publicity.''

Bricktown business owners hope NBA fans will fill hotels and pack bars and restaurants. The games will enhance revenues during the traditionally slow winter season.

``It's going to boost revenues for everybody,'' said Jeremy Drum, assistant manager at Mickey Mantle Steakhouse in Bricktown. ``It's going to be like 35 concerts coming to our city.''

Purchases on game days for lodging, food and entertainment should total $31 million for the season, the city study shows. That would generate about $915,000 in sales taxes for the city and more than $1 million for the state.

The city expects Hornets players to spend some of their salaries in Oklahoma, generating more tax money and helping business. But their major financial contribution may be in income tax applied to their combined $57 million salary.

The state will get about $3.6 million of that in income tax collections.

Ticket sales could generate money for the city, the state and a local business group if revenues pass $42.5 million. As part of the city's contract with the team, profits past that mark get split in half between the NBA and the three risk-sharing partners.

Chris Granger, the NBA's vice president of business development, said ticket sales so far have ``exploded beyond our expectations.''

``The phones haven't stopped ringing'' for season and packaged ticket sales, he said.

Most officials and business leaders interviewed said they're not worried that the Hornets might only be here one year, as is established in their contract with the city.

It's all about building toward the future, Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Chairman Fred Jones Hall said.

Hall called this kind of national publicity ``priceless.'' He said the chamber had already marked the past two years as ``breakout years'' for Oklahoma City. The goal of that label was to move Oklahoma City from a city with regional recognition to one with national status.

``This puts us in that pantheon'' of spotlight cities like Chicago and Cincinnati, he said.