Oklahoma City Welcomes Shot at NBA Team

Apr 20, 2008

As basketball fans in Seattle try to find a way to keep the SuperSonics in their city, the Sooner State is gearing up to welcome the team to Oklahoma City.

Michael Cross reports for member station KOSU.

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MICHAEL CROSS: I'm Michael Cross in Oklahoma City. Where residents here like the sound of the Oklahoma SuperSonics.

Ms. WANDA THOMPSON (Resident, Oklahoma): Yay for us and sorry for them.

CROSS: Wanda Thompson is a grandmother from Davenport, Oklahoma. She used to live in Washington and says she feels for people in her former state.

Ms. THOMPSON: I know, they're going to lose a great team, but as for us, it's really - I'm glad. I'm really glad.

CROSS: Today, the Oklahoma City zoo is one of the biggest attractions in the capital city. Carson Spencer(ph) was touring the place with his wife and two daughters. He says the zoo is fun, but a professional basketball team would be a lot better for his family.

Mr. CARSON SPENCER (Resident, Oklahoma): Just to bring them there for the experience. The experience is something there, you can just bring a lot of friends together, you know, it gives you - one other place to go where you're not just sitting home on a Friday night watching TV, you have a place to go to to get riled up.

CROSS: The kind of excitement can be found everywhere in this city of a half million residents.

Mr. Mick Cornett (Mayor, Oklahoma City): Our city has fallen in love with the NBA. And the - so, they're anxious to get the NBA back.

KASTE: Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett should know. He says residents have demonstrated they're ready to support an NBA team. The New Orleans Hornets played here after Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. CORNETT: We proved that two seasons with New Orleans. Selling over 11,000 season tickets the first year, and then over 12,000 the second year. I think our own citizens are starting to believe more in themselves.

CROSS: And they're willing to pay for it, too. Last month, voters approved a $121 million sales tax extension to spruce up the city's arena and build a practice facility for the basketball team.

And just yesterday, the state legislature passed a multi-million dollar payroll tax rebate for the Sonics.

For NPR News, I'm Michael Cross in Oklahoma City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.