Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Group Seeks Major Sports Franchise

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Group Seeks Major Sports Franchise

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

Efforts to lure a major league sports franchise to Oklahoma City were unveiled Thursday by a potential ownership group led by Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick.

Norick said his Oklahoma City Sports Commission is working to bring an existing or expansion franchise _ most likely national league hockey _ to the planned $80 million MAPS sports arena.

The group of private investors includes representatives of Oklahoma Publishing Co., Mathis Brothers Furniture, Fred Jones Industries and Boatmen's First National Bank of Oklahoma _ companies involved in the 1993 purchase of the Oklahoma City 89ers.

Norick said the commission, loosely formed in June 1994, will continue proactive efforts to gain an NHL or National Basketball Association franchise.

Construction on the Metropolitan Area Projects arena, not scheduled for completion until 2000, could be accelerated to accommodate or draw a franchise.

"We are beginning to formalize contacts with other owners in the (hockey) league, and this will be a very proactive effort," said Clayton I. Bennett, manager of real estate and local investments for OPUBCO. "We expect to be successful in the very near future."

Oklahoma City is a prime market for major league sports, said Rick Horrow, a sports consultant hired by the city to draw private investment on the heels of MAPS.

"When you stack up the market, the arena process and ownership potential, this market suggests as good a chance as any other candidate," he said. "This is one of the largest cities without a major league sports franchise.

"The fact that there would be an arena developed for an anchor tenant to meet its specifications is critical. It puts Oklahoma City in a superior position."

Norick said construction of the MAPS arena may be moved up one or two years, regardless of franchise efforts, in order to cut inflationary costs of construction. Other MAPS projects would not be rescheduled.

Since the projects are financed as sales tax is collected, the city could take out a short-term loan to cover preliminary costs. Taking out a loan likely would be less costly compared with how costs would inflate if the facility were built on the original timetable, Norick said. …

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