The NBA Development League is coming to Oklahoma City.
The Thunder-owned Tulsa 66ers will relocate 100 miles southwest beginning with the 2014-15 season and join their parent club in the state’s capital.
It’s a move necessitated by the 66ers’ home arena, the 4,500-seat SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby, choosing to go in a different direction and cease booking major events. The venue decided it would no longer offer arena space lease the space to anyone, including the 66ers.
“Since we’re in the business of banking rather than event attractions, we’re focusing on (smaller events) as we get closer to finding the right buyer,” Joyce Madewell, a spokeswoman for Spirit Bank, told the Tulsa World in June.
The Thunder is now in negotiations with Oklahoma City officials to lease the Cox Convention Center for the 66ers’ 24-game regular season home schedule. Capacity inside the Cox Center for basketball events is listed as 13,846. The venue also hosts the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons.
No decision has been made whether the team will retain the 66ers nickname or rebrand the franchise.
“Our two seasons in Bixby were successful, and we were pleased to be there, but circumstance beyond our control made it necessary to look for a new home for our Development League team,” said Danny Barth, executive vice president and chief administrative office of the Thunder.
“We explored several potentially viable options but were unable to find a facility in the Tulsa area that meets all of our business and basketball needs, so we made the decision to bring the team to Oklahoma City. We offer our sincere thanks to the communities of Tulsa and Bixby, and to all of the 66ers fans and sponsors in the area for their loyal support over the last few years.”
The 66ers had been in Tulsa since 2005. The Thunder purchased the franchise in 2008, making it the team’s sole affiliate.
The Los Angeles D-Fenders, D-League affiliate of the Lakers, is the only other NBA Development League franchise to play in the same city as its parent club.
Since 2008, the Thunder has maintained a close relationship with the 66ers, shuttling players to and from Tulsa countless times to assist their development. Current Thunder players Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, Andre Roberson and Grant Jerrett have all spent time with the 66ers.
The 66ers will train at the Thunder Community Events Center, the original training home of the Thunder.
The move of the 66ers is subject to NBA D-League approval.