Study: Hornets' impact on Oklahoma City tops $66M

Updated: May 10, 2006, 9:57 PM ET
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A new study estimates the New Orleans Hornets had an economic impact of $66.4 million on their temporary home in Oklahoma City last season, and team owner George Shinn thinks even that number is low.

The study by the city of Oklahoma City estimates the Hornets created $41 million in direct spending at games and another $25.4 million from their payroll.

The new estimate was about $9.5 million higher than a study done before the season based on average attendance of only 12,000 and a full schedule of 41 home games. The Hornets instead played 38 games in Oklahoma and drew average paid attendance of 18,737.

"No one could have predicted that," Mayor Mick Cornett said Wednesday. "That's extraordinary."

In an interview earlier this week with The Associated Press, Shinn said he'd had a study done in Charlotte that estimated the team's economic impact in that city was "over $150 million."

"Based on my experience, that's awful low," Shinn said.

"This is good," Shinn added. "But I'm saying I think there's a lot more to it than just Bricktown and restaurants. You've got to take in the whole picture, the impact it really makes."

Tom Anderson, Oklahoma City's special projects manager, said the study only dealt with direct economic impact and not with multiplier effects that trace not only when a consumer spends money but how vendors then use that money. The preseason study was prepared in a similar way.

"I think there's no doubt that there is a multiplier effect," Anderson said. "For consistency's sake, we didn't go that route."

Cornett said no one really knew what kind of impact to expect from the Hornets because Oklahoma City was an untested market and the situation that resulted in the team's move was so unique.

"When we made those projections I suspected they were conservative, but there's nothing wrong with that," Cornett said.

Anderson said there are also intangible benefits from the Hornets' presence, including spreading the word of Oklahoma City's downtown development and the impression the city makes on business leaders who visit Hornets games with opposing teams.

"Maybe some of those individuals will consider Oklahoma City as an expansion city that never would have considered it otherwise," Anderson said.

Cornett said the Hornets give the city a positive selling point when it had been known largely because of tragedies including the 1995 federal building bombing.

"The thing you can't put a dollar figure on is the publicity the city has gotten that is just as important," Cornett said.

"When I became mayor, I still thought we were a secret to the rest of the world. ... I think what the Hornets have done is break into that level of secrecy nationally."

Shinn said other intangible benefits include bringing people together from different backgrounds.

"I look at some of these things like when we see our fans. You see all different races, cultures, all kind of people standing up screaming their crazy heads off for the Bees," Shinn said. "What better way to bring people together? Nothing could do more to build a relationship with people than that."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press