Temporarily Yours, Sports Fans

Major sports teams become such an entrenched part of a city and its identity that it’s a big deal when one of them up and moves to someplace else. Here are some teams that packed up and shipped out to greener pastures…but not for very long.

Oklahoma City Hornets

Among the widespread, devastating destruction to the city of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was major damage to New Orleans Arena, at the time the home of the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets. With only two months between the hurricane’s touchdown and the start of the 2005-06 NBA season, the Hornets had to find somewhere else to play. The closest and most hospitable city: Oklahoma City. The Hornets played most of their home games in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons at Ford Center in OKC, and were rebranded the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. The team got such a great response from fans that after the Hornets moved back to New Orleans, the NBA granted an expansion team, the Thunder, to Oklahoma City.

Kansas City-Omaha Kings

The NBA’s Sacramento Kings were once the Rochester Royals, and then the Cincinnati Royals, and when they moved to Kansas City in 1972, they changed names to the Kings, because Major League Baseball already had a team called the Kansas City Royals. But for its first three years in Kansas City, the team was actually called the Kansas City-Omaha Kings. Half of the home games were played in Kansas City, Missouri, and the other half were played in Omaha, 190 miles away. The two-city arrangement lasted three years.

San Juan Expos

The Montreal Expos never quite took a firm hold in Quebec, and were sometimes on the verge of bankruptcy. From 2003 to 2004, the team tried to attract new interest by playing a bunch of its “home games” in San Juan Puerto Rico. This marks the first time a major team sports franchise was located, albeit temporarily, off the North American mainland. Ultimately, Major League Baseball bought the Expos and moved the team to Washington, D.C., creating the Washington Nationals.

Memphis Oilers

In 1997 the Houston Oilers uprooted and became the Tennessee Oilers (later renamed the Titans). That non-city specific name served the team well, because the intention was to play its first two seasons in Memphis before moving to Nashville, where a new stadium wouldn’t be ready until 1999. Plans change: Games in Memphis were sparsely attended, so the Oilers moved to Nashville early and played at Vanderbilt University until its stadium was completed the following year.