Monday, September 19, 2005

Hornets Are Coming to OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma City officials are drafting a proposed lease agreement that will bring the NBA's New Orleans Hornets to the Ford Center to play at least part of their 41-game home schedule.
An announcement is scheduled as early as Monday on plans to temporarily relocate the Hornets to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, making it unfeasible for the team to play its season, which starts in November, in its hometown.
It is still not known how many games, if any, might be played in Louisiana. The Times-Picayune reported Sunday the team would establish most of their base operations in Oklahoma City, but would also keep a smaller office in either New Orleans or Baton Rouge.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said the number of games to be played in Louisiana will be decided by the NBA and Louisiana authorities.
Cornett said a city council meeting will be scheduled Wednesday morning to review the proposed contract. He said he is not sure the public will have a chance to review it beforehand.
``We're calling a council meeting as soon as we can,'' Cornett told The Associated Press late Sunday. ``Everything is going well, but we still have a few details to work out.''
NBA representatives toured the Ford Center, which seats 19,675 when configured for basketball games, and met with Oklahoma City officials on Sept. 9.
``If the games can't be played in Louisiana for whatever reason, I'm anxious for Oklahoma City to have a chance to prove that it's a major league market,'' Cornett said.
Cornett previously said the agreement will include some expenses the city and state will be asked share as part of the move.
If the team moves to Oklahoma City, it is expected to relocate 100 employees from Louisiana and also hire 50 people locally to do a ``rapid ramp-up'' of telemarketing and ticket sales promotions.
Combined with the players, the team would bring an approximate $50 million payroll to the state -- an incentive, Cornett told The Oklahoman, for the state to share in providing support for the team's expenses.
Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, has said he plans to file legislation that would provide state money to the city to help pay for the teams relocation costs.
``This is not just a good thing for Oklahoma City to host this team while their facilities are rebuilt,'' Dorman said in a statement. ``It also is a promotion for the entire state with teams and fans that would travel here for games and, in turn, a strong boost to our economy.''
Oklahoma City is not the only city that has offered the team a temporary home. Others include Nashville, San Diego, Kansas City, Louisville and Las Vegas.