WITH his hot dog stand Colonel Mustard’s, Beau Darrough serves up chili cheese coneys and cans of soda to fans in Thunder Alley in front of Chesapeake Energy Arena before every home game.
Collecting wadded-up dollar bills from a stream of customers wearing Thunder blue before Game 2 of the Thunder’s now-tied series with Memphis Grizzlies last week, Darrough hoped Oklahoma City would be able to stay in the NBA Playoffs for at least another round.
“The longer they go, the bigger the crowds get — that’s my business,” Darrough said over the thumping cacophony of the Thunder Drummers’ pregame show in Thunder Alley.
Many local business owners are hoping this week that the Thunder can win two of the remaining three games in the series to advance to the next round of the NBA Playoffs. City officials estimated in 2013 that each Thunder home game has an economic impact of about $1.5 million.
While the first and second round of the NBA Playoffs give Oklahoma City restaurants and retailers a little boost, local hotels start to get booked up if the team makes to the conference finals, said Mike Carrier, president of the Oklahoma Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“The first and second rounds of the playoffs are about the same as a normal Thunder game,” Carrier said. “About five percent of the crowd is from out of town, and if it’s a televised game, you will pick up a few more hotel rooms with TV crews.”
In 2012, when Oklahoma City hosted two games of the NBA Finals, more than 500 credentialed members of the media from 200 countries came to Oklahoma City, giving the city a boost in sales and hotel tax revenue by booking hotel rooms and eating meals at local restaurants, Carrier said.
Feeding the fans
Deep Deuce Grill owners Craig Brown said his restaurant and bar at 307 NE 2 gets a nice boost during Thunder games even if the team is playing an away game.
“Each time there is an additional game, we certainly benefit from it,” Brown said.
Brown has started offering his customers a shuttle bus service to the arena from his restaurant during home games to lure more people in the door.
Weekend crowds for Thunder games during the regular season boost Brown’s business, but during the NBA Playoffs, more people will go out to the bar to have a few beers and watch the game, Brown said.
“Even if it’s a weeknight — the playoffs are the playoffs,” he said.
Spreading the wealth
Beyond hotels and restaurants, local retailers and food wholesalers also get a boost from playoff games.
Oklahoma City food distributor Urban Agrarian provides locally grown produce, free-range chicken, grass-fed beef and other food to the team’s private chef to feed the Thunder players before and after home games. The business also supplies food for the team at its practice facility. Urban Agrarian began supplying locally grown produce and other Oklahoma products to Center Court Grill at Chesapeake Energy Arena last fall, which has provided a big boost in profits to the food distributor, said Shiloh Kile, sales manager for Urban Agrarian.
While she always has been a Thunder fan, Kile said she now has even more reason to cheer for the team.
“It’s pretty awesome now — the further they go, the more profitable it is for us,” Kile said, “With a few more home games this season and now the playoffs, our sales have almost doubled.”
More playoffs games mean more T-shirt sales for Plaza District retailer Tree and Leaf Clothing. Each year, Tree and Leaf partners with a local sports blog to design a limited-edition Thunder T-shirt for the NBA Playoffs for sale at its shop at 1705B NW 16.
The first few years the Thunder went into the playoffs, Tree and Leaf’s playoffs shirts sold well because of the novelty of Oklahoma City having its own NBA team, Tree and Leaf co-owner Dusty Gilpin said.
This season, Tree and Leaf expects every playoff game to help T-shirt sales a little more.
“Now our fans are a little more used to it, and the further the team goes in the playoffs, the more we sell,” Gilpin said.
From top: Thunder flags hang from a building in Automobile Alley.