SBD/Issue 198/Franchises

Sonics Leave Seattle, Part II: Move To Oklahoma City Underway

Team To Begin Season-Ticket
Sales Today In Oklahoma City
The Sonics will begin moving to Oklahoma City today in preparations of playing the '08-09 season at the Ford Center after reaching a settlement in its trial with the city of Seattle, and "Oklahoma and its capital city will never be the same," according to Bob Barry (KFOR-NBC, 7/2). At a press conference Wednesday night in the city, Sonics Owner Clay Bennett said, "We made it. Congratulations. The NBA will be in Oklahoma City next season playing their games.” Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett called the announcement "a red letter day in the history of the city --right up there in the top five or 10 days that we've ever had” (Ellis & Casteel, DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 7/3). Sonics GM Sam Presti and Sonics interim President & CEO Danny Barth will lead the transition process (Sonics). Bennett said that season-ticket sales "for the soon-to-be-named franchise at Ford Center would begin Thursday" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 7/3). He added that his ownership group will "unveil a new nickname and new colors in the next few weeks after considering all the suggestions they've received" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 7/3). Bennett added that the Sonics' "championship trophy and banner will be left in Seattle," and a "new banner and replica trophy will be made for the franchise in Oklahoma City" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 7/3).

READYING FOR ARRIVAL: Bennett said that tickets to games at the Ford Center, which hosted the Hornets after Hurricane Katrina from '05-07, will "be generally higher than they were for Hornets games, but promised there will still be affordable seats." He added that "all home regular season games will be played in Oklahoma City, but talks are in progress that would allow some preseason games to be played in Tulsa." Bennett noted that the team will "establish a temporary office somewhere in downtown Oklahoma City and move to permanent office space in the Ford Center once it is constructed." Cornett: "Somebody is going to have to pinch me to think this day is really here. If I had a concern -- and my tongue is not in my cheek -- I'm concerned we don't have enough seats in that arena. I think the season ticket sales are going to blow the roof off the building" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 7/3). Bennett said that the franchise "will do everything it can to allow former Hornets season ticket holders an opportunity to reclaim their tickets," though a plan for that "has not been finalized and the franchise cannot make any guarantees" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 7/3). Daily Oklahoman reporter Darnell Mayberry: "They have a good foundation because you had the Hornets here and they have that database with season-ticket holders. ... But I think you really have to get out there and market your team and sell tickets at this point” (NEWSOK.tv, 7/3).

FORD CENTER CHANGES: In Oklahoma City, Randy Ellis reports renovations to make the Ford Center ready for the Sonics, including "brighter lighting and upgrades to wiring and the broadcast infrastructure," will begin this summer and are scheduled "to be completed by the fall of 2010" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 7/3). Also in Oklahoma City, Steve Lackmeyer reports Oklahoma Ford Dealers for a 90-day period now have "exclusive rights to negotiate a new sponsorship deal with the city" and the team. If a deal is "not struck after that 90-day period, the team is free to seek a new sponsor," but Oklahoma Ford Dealers during the next 180 days "must be given a chance to match or beat any new naming rights deal" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 7/3).

TV POSSIBILITIES: Even though Oklahoma City's FSN Southwest shows Mavericks games, the RSN said it is prepared to bid for Bennett's team starting next week. FSN Dir of Corporate Communications Chris Bellitti: "FSN Southwest is a fully distributed network throughout Oklahoma. We look forward to conversations with the Sonics now that they are free to discuss their future in Oklahoma." Cox, the main cable company in the area, aired Hornets games while they played at the Ford Center, on a local origination channel (John Ourand, THE DAILY).

GRACIOUS IN VICTORY: The DAILY OKLAHOMAN's Berry Tramel writes Bennett in announcing the move Wednesday in Oklahoma City was "received like a hero," but he "didn't act like a hero." Bennett: "I don't feel, standing here today, victorious. I just don't feel that" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 7/3).

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