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Oklahoma City grows into a big league city

By Ben Luschen, Classen School of Advanced Studies Modified: May 11, 2009 at 11:08 am •  Published: May 11, 2009
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Twenty-five years ago, minor league baseball was the only sports show in Oklahoma City. But in the last quarter century, sports have done a lot of growing up in the metro.



Area residents have seen the 1989 Olympic Festival, minor league successes in hockey, baseball and football and numerous college events, but the metro’s sporting crown jewel arrived in 2008 when the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder came to town.

But it can’t be forgotten Oklahoma City has only recently been considered a big-league city, Mayor Mick Cornett said.

“We really didn’t have a venue (before the Ford Center was built),” Cornett said. “It changed everything. We were still in a small market, an unproven market, but we were in the conversation (for a professional team).”

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Oklahoma City got a chance to prove itself as a professional market when the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets needed a home for two years. Success on the court and in attendance numbers eventually lead to businessman Clay Bennett’s purchase of the Seattle SuperSonics and ultimately the team moving to Oklahoma City as the Thunder.

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OKC Sports Timeline

1993 – The first Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) penny sales tax is passed, providing funds for a new sports arena to possibly lure a major league team.

1998 – A MAPS extension is passed, ensuring the completion of the arena.

2002 – The Ford Center is completed.

2004 – Mick Cornett elected as mayor of Oklahoma City.

2005-07 – The NBA’s New Orleans Hornets are displaced due to Hurricane Katrina and play two seasons in Oklahoma City.

Nov. 2, 2007 – The NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics begin planning to move to Oklahoma City.

April 18, 2008 – NBA owners approve the SuperSonics’ move to Oklahoma City.

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