It took 10 years, but the Oklahoma RedHawks are finally about to be known as the Oklahoma City RedHawks. To understand why the team went so long as just the Oklahoma RedHawks – and why the city didn’t insist on OKC in the team’s name as it did with the yet-to-be named NBA team, it’s appropriate to take a ride in the time machine.
It’s 1997 and the opening of the Bricktown ballpark, the first of the MAPS projects, is running a year late. A few years, the team was saved from being sold to owners in another city when Clay Bennett, Bill and Larry Mathis, and several other investors agreed to buy it and keep it in OKC. The key to their purchase was their belief that the city would build a new ballpark, quickly, as part of MAPS.
Remember the phrase “over budget, behind schedule?” Back when you hated MAPS. Yes, if you lived here, there was a moment in time when you were pretty disgusted with the program. Sure you love it now, but quit being in denial – you were upset. Anyway, every additional season at the old All Sports Stadium was a loser for the new owners. And as you might imagine, when it came time to negotiate a lease for the new ballpark, negotiations became … well … tense.
And to this day, I’m not sure the city could have required that the name “Oklahoma City” be included in the renaming of the 89ers, even though it did just that in its bid for major league basketball. The marketing folks with the RedHawks didn’t just strike the name “Oklahoma City” – they went one step further in upsetting locals by wanting to name the ballpark “Southwestern Bell Park.” That didn’t go well at all, and the owners agreed to change it to Southwestern Bell Bricktown Ballpark. With that dust settled, there was no more time to argue over the team name – the ballpark was about to open, the city had a new mayor, and the public was about to finally enjoy MAPS.
And so we’ve lived with the name “Oklahoma RedHawks” even beyond the sale of the team to Bob Funk and Scott Pruitt. Maybe it’s just coincidence that they decided to add Oklahoma City to their team’s name after Mayor Mick Cornett stood his ground with a much bigger fish – the NBA team – which ironically is owned by a group led by Clay Bennett.
To quote Paul Harvey… “Now you know the rest of the story….”