OKC Thunder Back in Time for Christmas
The National Basketball Association is giving the people of Oklahoma City a Christmas present, the return of The Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
This comes after a 149-day lockout with heavy bickering between millionaire players and owners.
Now that the labor dispute has ended will the Thunder see a return of the fans who cheered them on to the Western Conference Finals last year?
When we went to Coach’s Restaurant in Bricktown last month, the mood was somber with the prospect of a 2011-2012 season fading fast.
Today it’s much more upbeat with Christmas music playing and the thought of the Thunder’s return right around the corner.
Kelly Dean is enjoying a burger with a friend and says she’s ready to return to the games.
“It’s a big deal that we got the thunder in the first place so the fact that they’re actually able to salvage part of the season is awesome especially for all that it does to the Oklahoma area.”
And there doesn’t seem to be too much of a letdown after the nearly 150-day NBA lockout cancelled 13 home games in Oklahoma City.
Ed Blau says if the Thunder continues the winning streak it had last season, no one will remember the labor dispute in the next few months.
“I understand that contract issues and labor issues are just part of it and this was just a situation where it just dragged out longer than anyone wanted it to.”
Mayor Mick Cornett worried about the loss of a season not just for the city, but also as a season ticket holder.
He says Oklahoma City is ready to host any games scheduled by the NBA.
“I think everybody is kind of waiting for the Ts to be crossed and the Is to be dotted and then the schedule to come out and see just how many changes there have been and see to what level the season’s going to be extended.”
Still local economic experts say the boost to the area runs about $1 million a night, which means businesses in downtown and Bricktown lost almost $15 million dollars over the last two months.
In Southeast Oklahoma City, about a hundred kids are taking part in a Fit Kids Clinic hosted by the Thunder at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club.
Sam Presti, the General Manager of the Thunder, admits the fans of Oklahoma City both young and old are critical to success.
“They’re a big part of what we’ve been able to establish and hopefully build upon and we’re grateful for their support, both as a team and us being part of the community.”
He says he’s been very busy the past week gearing up for new season.
“To be honest with you for me and everybody that loves basketball as much as I do and the city does, just having the team back on the floor is quite a gift in and of itself.”
Thunder officials say the final details are still being worked out to create a 66-game season which starts on December 25th although that might not be the first game for the Thunder.
What we do know so far is the regular season will end April 26th with playoffs running through the end of June.
NBA officials have not ruled out the possibility of some pre-season games in December.