SHAWNEE, Okla (KFOR) – Citizen Potawatomi Nation is becoming the first native tribe in the state to own a professional sports team with the announcement of the Potawatomi Fire.
The Fire, which will play in The Basketball League (TBL), will play at least 15 home games at Firelake Arena in Shawnee. The arena will hold 3,500 people for each game and the new team will create more than 100 full and part-time jobs.
Potawatomi Fire General Manager David Qualls says he has already heard from local officials on what this will mean for the tribe and the city of Shawnee.
“We’ve not got our team,” he said. “We’ve had tribal members, community members, community leaders reach out and say, ‘This is wonderful. How do we be a part of this? How do we be sponsors? How do we buy tickets?'”
Qualls says giving the county an affordable way to watch professional sports will pay dividends for the local economy
“It keeps that entertainment dollar in our market, we’re not going out of town,” he said. “Our money cycles seven times once it’s been within Citizen Potawatomi Nation [and] in the local community, so that creates jobs, and those jobs in turn create entertainment.”
The Fire has already announced its head coach — former NBA player Derrick Rowland, who comes from a professional team in Albany, N.Y. He says he’s specifically looking forward to impacting the community and citizen Potawatomi Nation’s youth.
“I just know what a franchise can bring to a community, so I’m excited for Shawnee,” he said. “A lot of kids never get a chance to meet and interact with professional athletes, so we’re gonna do any and everything we can to make it exciting.”
The Fire had its introductory news conference last Wednesday. According to the team, one of the Fire’s first signees was former OSU center Anthony Allen.
The Fire will begin its TBL inaugural season in 2022.