Seattle transplants mark anniversary of team's move

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OKLAHOMA CITY --- After spending more than a decade with the Seattle SuperSonics, Pete Winemiller's transition to Oklahoma City isn't quite complete.

A full year after the NBA franchise announced it would be relocating, Winemiller is among a handful of employees who are still making a 2,000-mile commute -- from home with the family in the Pacific Northwest to work at the Thunder's downtown office.

Winemiller's typical schedule features about three weeks in Oklahoma City every month, and either a week or a couple of long weekends in Seattle. Only now is he working to find a house for himself, his wife and his two daughters.

In the meantime, he has become extremely well-acquainted with the Renaissance Hotel.

"We've just been running so hard," said Winemiller, the team's vice president in charge of guest relations. "It's been one of those discussions that hasn't taken place probably as expeditiously as it needs to."

Winemiller has been wrapped up in making the relocation a reality. He was first among those in charge of overseeing the physical move of the SuperSonics' belongings to their new home, and afterward assembled a staff and established relationships with concessionaires, ushers and police officials who play a role on Thunder game days.

About 50 employees -- including players and coaching staff -- from Seattle made it through the first season in Oklahoma City after the ownership group led by Clay Bennett reached a settlement on July 2, 2008, to move the team.

It took 61 truckloads to carry the 786,000 pounds of freight the franchise moved halfway across the country -- piling up 110,000 miles. The franchise also paid to relocate the employees who wanted to stay with the team.

Over time, the SuperSonics have become but a memory. The franchise has turned the page and rebranded itself. A new name and colors were announced in September, and roster turnover has the number of former SuperSonics players dwindling.

Thunder workers talk openly about the rare chance to create a franchise from the ground up.

"For us, it really was starting up a brand new organization and doing that with a lot of good people to start it with, but also having to ask yourself: 'We're doing this differently this time because it's a different situation; are we going to make it better?'" Winemiller said.

One thing is clear, he is certainly going to great lengths to do his job.


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