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The Thunder celebrates 10 years of NBA in OKC
October 2018 marks 10 years since the Oklahoma City Thunder played its first game in Oklahoma City, the beginning of Oklahoma City’s status as a big-league city. But bringing the NBA to Oklahoma City is a story that started much earlier than the Thunder’s first game.
Oklahoma City’s serious aspirations to attract a major sporting franchise began in earnest with the passage of the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) in 1993. One of the MAPS program’s capstone projects was the construction of an arena built to meet NBA and NHL specifications. Construction on that arena began in 1999, and the facility opened on June 8, 2002. In 2005, Oklahoma City had an opportunity to host a professional sports team when the New Orleans Hornets temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City following Hurricane Katrina. From 2005-2007, the Hornets played two seasons in Oklahoma City, enjoying its sell-out crowds and supportive fan base. The excitement in Oklahoma City provided overwhelming evidence to the NBA that a team could be successful here.
Fans were just as eager to see Oklahoma City have a team of their own. In March 2008, Oklahoma City residents approved a penny sales tax to further propel Oklahoma City to the big leagues. The temporary sales tax raised $121 million to pay for needed improvements to the arena and to construct a practice facility.