When the Oklahoma City Thunder was trying to come up with a new name for the stretch of S Robinson Avenue that runs past Chesapeake Energy Arena, Thunder Road and all variations including Boulevard and Alley were out — but the team has decided that the name Thunder Drive is a slam dunk.
The Thunder wants to change the name of the block-long piece of S Robinson Avenue between W Reno Avenue and SW 3 Street to Thunder Drive and has applied to the city to rename the road.
“Thunder Drive has a good ring to it — and obviously drive has a basketball connotation, too,” said Dan Mahoney, a spokesman for the team. “We went through several different ideas and it kind of stuck.”
When the Thunder's business office moves into a newly renovated home at the arena this fall, the team wants its permanent address to be 208 Thunder Drive. The city asked the team to pick an even number between 200 and 400 for its street address and the Thunder picked 208, because it was close to 2008 — the year that the team moved to Oklahoma City from Seattle, Mahoney said.
In its application to the city, the Thunder said that the name change would “celebrate the deep ties between the Thunder and our community.”
“We are humbled to see how this organization has become truly woven into the fabric of Oklahoma City,” the Thunder said in the application.
The name change is a symbol of the national attention that the Thunder has brought to Oklahoma City, said Tom Anderson, special projects manager for Oklahoma City, who oversees the arena for the city.
“I think it celebrates the success and rising of Oklahoma City,” Anderson said. “The team has brought so much positive attention to Oklahoma City and I don't think there is anything wrong with celebrating that overwhelming success.”
The street name change must first go through the city's Downtown Design Review Committee and Planning Commission before a final vote of approval by the City Council, said J.J. Chambless, Oklahoma City's zoning manager. He said the city would bear the cost for changing street signs on the block-long stretch of road.
Oklahoma City has adopted certain standards for renaming a street. According to the City Council's policy, major traffic arteries may not be renamed and that name change “must reflect some special public interest, place, historic event, or to honor a nationally recognized person or group ...”
The stretch of road that the team wants to rename is mostly fronted by a vacant building and a parking lot. The largest property owners abutting the stretch of road are Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority and Oklahoma Transportation. All of the property owners have already signed off on the proposed name change.
The street has carried the name Robinson since at least 1894, according to a historical map included with the Thunder's application.
Thunder Drive has a good ring to it — and obviously drive has a basketball connotation, too. We went through several different ideas and it kind of stuck.”