The Oklahoma Venture Forum gave its inaugural Chairman's Award for Economic Impact to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday for helping raise the city's profile and boosting local business.
Speaking at a luncheon to honor the Thunder at the Governor's Mansion, Gov. Mary Fallin commended the team for helping create a positive, pro-business image for Oklahoma City.
Fallin told the story of one unnamed New York-based company that decided to take a look at Oklahoma City as a place for future expansion because of the momentum in the city that the Thunder has helped create.
Brian Byrnes, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Thunder, accepted the award on behalf of the team.
Although the National Basketball Association initially had reservations about whether there would be enough support in Oklahoma City for a franchise, the Thunder has become a model team for the league, Byrnes said.
Over the past four and a half years the Thunder has become one of the top teams in the league for attracting corporate sponsors, luring more about 80 companies to attach their name to the Thunder brand, Byrnes said.
The team also posts consistently high television ratings, attendance and merchandise sales, he said.
The Thunder has a 96 percent renewal rate for its season ticket holders and has 4,000 people on its waiting list to become season ticket holders — one of only a handful of teams that has a such a waiting list, Byrnes said.
“People here get it — they recognize that our presence benefits the city and that one plus one equals three,” he said. “We have been incredibly blessed with the wonderful culture here in Oklahoma City.”