OKLAHOMA CITY Chased from their home by Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Hornets have found a temporary refuge and a fresh start.
The Hornets announced plans Wednesday to play 35 home games in Oklahoma City and six others in Baton Rouge, La., after a relocation agreement was approved by the city council.
The New Orleans Arena sustained extensive water damage from the hurricane and will take months to repair. But even if New Orleans is ready to welcome the team back before the 2005-06 season ends, the Hornets are locked into their 35 dates at the 19,675-seat Ford Center.
The team will alter its home jerseys so they read "Hornets" on the front. The road jerseys will feature the words "New Orleans," but a patch on the shoulder will recognize Oklahoma City. In standings and statistics, the NBA plans to call the team the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.
Playoff games also would be played in Oklahoma City, and the Hornets will have the option to stay for an extra year.
"This whole thing is somewhat bittersweet," owner George Shinn said. "I've got a fine line to walk. I want to be enthusiastic to the people here and let them know I'm proud and that we're going to make this thing work. I also want to make sure that people in New Orleans have hope because they've gone through a lot.
"It's not even real. It's unreal what they're going through. I want to try to give them hope and to let them know our goal is to come back."
Numerous other cities - including San Diego, Las Vegas, Nashville, Tenn., and Kansas City, Mo. - also made offers to host the team.