News came out today that the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder are relocating their Development League franchise in Tulsa to OKC. The 66ers have spent the last two seasons in the SpiritBank Center in nearby Bixby, Oklahoma. Officials were recently informed that the arena was no longer going to lease the facility to the team, prompting the move. Multiple sources have the Thunder talking to the city to have the team play out of the Cox Convention Center, current home of the Oklahoma City Barons.
The 66ers played two games in the Chesapeake Energy Arena this past season, both Tuesday games at noon. Their first game on February 4th has an attendance listed as 1094, while their second game on March 11th is listed as 11,423. The March 11th game was a “Thunder Field Trip” day with many school-children attending, and setting the NBA D-League record for single-game attendance.
It’s no secret that the NBA and the Thunder run the city, but the big question is if there would be enough support for the D-League team to warrant them being in the same city as the big club. The 66ers averaged around 2000-plus in the 4500-seat SpiritBank Center. The Cox Center can hold up to just over 13,000 when it’s fully opened, but as we’ve seen the past few seasons with the Barons, it’s quite possible they cover up the seating in most of the building to cut down the capacity.
The D-League has a 24-game home schedule for each team, which could set up some interesting scenarios with scheduling the Barons season, but I don’t see there being much difference to previous seasons. The Texas Stars are quiet familiar with that setup in the Cedar Park Center, sharing their building with the D-League Austin Toros.
I can only see this as a good thing though, as it could very well bring a little more exposure to the Barons with more people heading to the Cox Center. I imagine the Barons-centric branding will be taken down or at least minimized, but it could help out the quality of concessions, and other pieces of the arena as well.
No word if the Thunder plan on keeping the 66ers moniker, or if there will be a rebranding of the team. When the Thunder first moved to OKC, many names were rumored including the Marshalls, Wind, and Bison. It’s possible they may break one of those out, or just go a completely different route. Also the Barons and Energy, but those are currently in use.