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OKC Central: Build a cage and the players will come

Downtown public basketball court a hit in Oklahoma City.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: August 27, 2013

In its earliest days, Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. existed to tackle “big” problems and pursue “big” opportunities.

The rundown underground pedestrian tunnels were renovated and upgraded from the 1970s groovy look to its more modern gallery passages bathed in colorful lighting designed by architect Rand Elliott.

District identity signage was established, street cleaning crews were launched, and the Downtown in December festival ensured downtown stayed lively all year around.

A few years ago, however, the organization began to stagnate, proceeding with a status quo of old-fashioned marketing efforts, few new additions to making downtown fun, and little social media effort.

Under Jane Jenkins, the organization has turned its attention to thinking outside the box and creating smaller attractions and events to fill in the gaps.

A public basketball court was one of those gaps. A Nike commercial featuring Thunder star Kevin Durant served as a reminder that in every great city, there's a great public basketball court. The commercial featured our new downtown skyline, but the closest Durant could get to playing basketball in the “city” was a church neighborhood court near NW 23 and Western.

Jenkins and her crew quickly went to work and struck up an agreement with Bob Howard to build a temporary court on the old Bob Howard Ford dealership at Hudson and Reno. The land is expected to ultimately be purchased by the city for construction of a new convention center in three years.

But for now, the court has proved to be a hit with not just downtown residents and workers, but folks from throughout the city. And they've come to call it “The Cage.”

Avery Stevenson Jr. is no stranger to basketball, having played NAIA ball at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma before going on tour with the Harlem Superstars. Upon his return to the city in 2012, he saw the cage as a reminder of what's missing in Oklahoma City — a great venue for street ball — and he started up Slick Athletics.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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