Sports
9:01 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Some Local Businesses Hurting Without NBA Assist

Originally published on Tue November 8, 2011 6:22 am

From Los Angeles to New York City and Miami to Dallas, professional basketball fans face November without the NBA. The league keeps canceling games because of the ongoing lockout as players and owners squabble over future contracts.

Most NBA cities have other professional sports to turn to with hoops on hiatus. But some markets, like downtown Oklahoma City, only have one game in town.

It's lunchtime at Coach's, a popular sports restaurant and bar attached to the Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. Customer Maria Allen says it's busy here — but nothing like nights when the Oklahoma City Thunder plays.

"I know what Bricktown looks like when it's a game, and so I can just imagine that these restaurants down here are hurting not having that business," Allen says.

Coach's sees about a 15 percent jump in sales when the Thunder plays home games.

Chad Vesper, sitting a few tables away, has been watching more college football to fill the basketball void. Vesper says all he ever hears in the media is what players or owners are losing.

"What you don't always hear about is the hot dog vendor and the person taking tickets and the restaurants down here — that's a huge impact," Vesper says, "and certainly to the tax revenue for the city."

In Oklahoma City, economists estimate each lost game is a million-dollar hit to the economy. Even with that, Mayor Mick Cornett says he's not as worried about the loss of money; he's more concerned about the way the games boost the metro's image.

"The idea of having Kevin Durant out there playing with 'Oklahoma City' on his chest and being in sports magazines and the team being on national television," Cornett says, "those are very positive elements for the community, and there's an indirect economic development to all of that."

So far, the NBA's monthlong cancellation will mean the loss of seven home games in Oklahoma City. Officials book other events in the 18,000-seat arena around the team's expected season. But on canceled game nights, the center will likely stay empty, further hurting the regional economy.

Tim Linville, the Chesapeake Energy Arena's marketing director, says the arena employs about 100 full-time employees and 500 part-time employees to help with things like ticket sales, concessions and security.

"We're ready no matter what, so if they tell us tomorrow that they're ready to play, we're ready to go," Linville says. "The big impact on us running the building is the fact that until they come back, we don't have as many hours for our part-time people."

If the lockout ends soon, the first game would be on Dec. 4 against the New Orleans Hornets. But back at Coach's restaurant, Vesper says it's too soon to say if fans — and their money — will return.

"If they try to squeeze in too many games in a season that's already shortened, that may have an impact on how the fans treat the players and the owners, that type of thing, so we'll have to wait and see probably," he says.

The Thunder moved to Oklahoma from Seattle three years ago, so the state isn't dependent on the team. But in a sluggish economy, any money lost is money that can't be used in a recovery.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. From Los Angeles to New York and Miami to Dallas, pro-basketball fans face a November without any play in the NBA. The league keeps canceling games because of the ongoing lockouts as players and owners squabble over future contracts. Most NBA cities have other professional sports to turn to, but for some markets the NBA is the only game in town. Michael Cross of member station KOSU reports on one place, Oklahoma City, which is really feeling the loss.

MICHAEL CROSS, BYLINE: It's lunchtime at Coach's, a popular sports restaurant and bar attached to the Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City. Customer Maria Allen says it's busy here, but nothing like nights when the OKC Thunder play.

MARIA ALLEN: I know what Bricktown looks like when it's a game, and so I can just imagine that these, you know, the restaurants down here are hurting not having that business.

CROSS: Coach's Restaurant sees about a 15 percent jump in sales when the Thunder plays home games. Chad Vesper is sitting a few tables away. He's been watching more college football to fill the basketball void. Vesper says all he ever hears in the media is what players or owners are losing.

CHAD VESPER: What you don't always hear about is the hotdog vendor and the person taking tickets and the restaurants down here, that's a huge impact. And certainly to the tax revenue for the city.

CROSS: In Oklahoma City, economists estimate each lost game is a million dollar hit to the economy. Even with that, Mayor Mick Cornett says he's not as worried about the loss of money. He's more concerned about the way the games boost the metro's image.

MAYOR MICK CORNETT: The idea of having Kevin Durant out there playing with Oklahoma City on his chest and being in sports magazines and the team being on national television, you know, those are very positive elements for the community and there's an indirect economic development to all of that.

CROSS: So far, the NBA's month-long cancellation will mean the loss of seven home games in Oklahoma City. Officials book other events in the 18,000-seat arena around the team's expected season. But on canceled game nights, the center will likely stay empty, further hurting the regional economy.

Tim Linville is the arena's marketing director. He says the arena employs about 100 full-time employees and 500 part-timers to help with things like ticket sales, concessions and security.

TIM LINVILLE: Well, we're ready no matter what, so if they tell us tomorrow that they're ready to play, we're ready to go. The big impact on us running the building is the fact that until they come back, we just don't have as many hours for our part-time people.

CROSS: If the lockout ends soon, the first game would be on December 4 against New Orleans. But back at Coach's Restaurant, Chad Vesper says it's too soon to say if fans - and their money - will return.

VESPER: If they try to squeeze in too many games in a season that's already shortened, that may have an impact on how the fans treat the players and the owners, that type of thing, so we'll just have to wait and see probably.

CROSS: The Thunder moved to Oklahoma from Seattle three years ago. So the state isn't dependent on the team. But in a sluggish economy, any money lost is money that can't be used in a recovery. For NPR News, I'm Michael Cross in Oklahoma City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.