Earlier this season, the team prompted a lengthy cover story on The New York Times Magazine. That writer, Sam Anderson, has since been commissioned to write a book about Oklahoma City.
No current estimate of the value of that publicity is available, but in 2006 The Oklahoman worked with local public relations and marketing firms and compiled a list of news coverage of the temporary stay of the NBA Hornets in the city. The value of that coverage was estimated at $8 million.
That figure did not include the sort of worldwide coverage the team earned for the city during last year's NBA Finals — publicity that include write-ups and broadcast coverage in the United Kingdom, France, Africa and Asia.
Restaurant owners and hoteliers have long reported they see a big bump in business on game nights. The Skirvin Hilton Hotel routinely hosts visiting NBA teams, while Keith Paul, owner of the Good Egg Dining Group, said his restaurants staff up for big crowds whenever the Thunder is in town.
At one restaurant, Republic at Classen Curve, the giant video screens attract big crowds even on nights when the team is out of town. Paul admits the 8:30 p.m. start times and extended series with both the Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies has him enjoying extra business.
Some economists have noted that economic impact figures surrounding sporting events fail to account for the fact that residents are merely shifting their entertainment spending.
As a member of the state Wildlife Commission and chairman of the Oklahoma Cotton Council, Robbins has found himself spending more and more time in the city attending games and attending monthly meetings. It was then, he said, that he joined with one other family in renting a two-bedroom apartment at the Legacy at Arts Quarter in MidTown.
“I spend so much time up there now,” Robbins said. “Your game is typically over at 11:30 p.m. and if you drive home to Altus at 2:30 a.m., what's your life worth to you?”
Robbins said he never would have rented an apartment if not for the Thunder. That apartment is now being used by his family for visits to the zoo and other metro-area excursions.
“Now that we have an apartment, my wife and I come up to Oklahoma City even when there isn't a game,” Robbins said. “We eat at Sushi Neko, we see a movie, we enjoy a concert, we shop. We're doing all that, where, without the Thunder, we wouldn't have.”