Thunder economic impact estimate tops $64 million for the current season.

Thunder home games offer big boost to the local economy, according to those who estimate such things.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: May 15, 2013
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Danny Robbins won't be attending Game 5 of the NBA playoff series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies — the Altus cotton farmer has too much planting to get done in the fields this week.

But the season ticket-holder's wife, Zina, will be at the game, likely with a friend or relative. And she will be staying at the downtown apartment they leased after deciding they were spending about as much money on hotel rooms to attend the games.

Robbins isn't alone in making the frequent trek from Altus. He estimates about a half-dozen other families from his town make the 138-mile drive from southwest Oklahoma for the Thunder's home games this season at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“I have friends who are Sooners and friends who are OSU fanatics who will get into fistfights over sports, and we have watch parties in Altus and they're arm in arm watching the Thunder play,” Robbins said. “They're united enemies cheering with one voice for the Thunder.”

Fandom funding

Robbins is part of a complicated formula the city uses to estimate the economic impact of the Thunder.

Until last year, city officials estimated the team's economic impact at $1.2 million per game. This year, that figure went up to $1.5 million after consultations with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Destination Marketing Association International.

Tom Anderson, special projects manager at City Hall, realizes the impact figure is criticized by some as being too low and others as being too high.

Anderson said the increase in the impact was based on changing the estimate of visitors like Robbins from 1 percent of the attendance to 5 percent.

The formula provided by the Destination Marketing Association International estimates that for each in-town guest (those who travel within metro area) will spend $65, compared to those outside the metro, like Robbins, who are expected to spend $216.

Last year, total economic impact for the season, including the Thunder's duration through the NBA Finals, was estimated at $54.3 million (the season also was a reduced schedule due to the players' strike in late 2011).

This year, to date, Anderson estimates the impact will hit $64.5 million with a full house for Wednesday night's game.

“From an economic impact viewpoint, we love to have as many games as possible,” Anderson said. “But as a Thunder fan, I want them to win as much as they can.”

Some question figures

The economic impact figure could be criticized as being too low; Anderson acknowledged it does not include employment at the arena, restaurants and hotels that can be attributed to the games.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist 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 Metropolitan...
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