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Mayor Cornett refuses to sign letter to NBA

BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, Published: October 19, 2011

Elsewhere, the city of Memphis is considering bringing a lawsuit against the NBA if the league cancels any more games. City bonds were needed to build the FedExForum, and city taxpayers would have to make up the difference in the arena's lost game revenues this season.

This is in stark contrast to the newly named Chesapeake Energy Arena, which opened in 2002 and is owned by Oklahoma City.

The Thunder's home arena and all its renovations were paid for through 1-cent sales tax proposals approved by voters, as was the new Integris Health Thunder Training Center the team moved into last week.

Chesapeake Energy will pay roughly $38 million over the next 12 years for naming rights to the arena.

Cornett fondly remembers a conversation he had with Stern while trying to sell him on Oklahoma City as a potential NBA city.

Stern: “How much money do you owe on your building?”

Cornett: “It's debt-free.”

“The commissioner's head tilted and he said, ‘Really?'” Cornett recalled. “It was if I had discovered a new element on the Periodic Table.”

Stern: “Who owns your naming rights?”

Cornett: “The Oklahoma Ford Dealers, but we have an NBA and NHL out (clause). If we get a team, then those rights go away.”

Stern: “Really?”

“We really were set up to succeed at this juncture, in two extremely critical elements that would have been almost impossible to overcome otherwise,” Cornett said. “We're still benefiting from that foresight.”

John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. Follow him on Twitter @RohdeOK.