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May 20, 2014

Michael Kinney: On the road in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO — Ever since the Thunder came to Oklahoma, they have been compared to the San Antonio Spurs. With general manager Sam Presti being groomed in the Spurs organization, it’s easy to see why.

But even more than that, NBA observers have often commented that Oklahoma City has tried to transform itself into being just like San Antonio after it built the River Walk through Bricktown.

However, after being here for only one day, I can tell you with almost absolute certainty, Oklahomans don’t have to worry about being seen as the San Antonio of the North.

One reason is the parking situation. While it’s not as bad as Los Angeles, there is a parking structure on every other corner or an empty lot someone has put a toll booth in to collect money.

My first night in town I dined at Ácenar Mexican Restaurant. Very good, authentic (from what I’m told) food in the heart of downtown. After having the Parilladas made with grilled marinated beef, grilled onions, charro beans, guacamole and pico de gallo, I needed to walk it off. I drove around for what felt like an hour just looking for street parking. There was none to be found.

The other biggest difference is the area surrounding the arenas the two teams play in. Oklahoma City officials did an “effective” job of using displacement by gentrification to clean out the downtown area so Bricktown could be built. Everything north, east and west of the Chesapeake Energy Arena is either restaurants, hotels, bars or condominiums.

San Antonio has not taken that route. While the River Walk area is still expanding with more and more business and hotels to accommodate visitors, three miles east is the AT&T Center. In-between are neighborhoods made up of the working class and working poor.— places like Alamo Heights, North New Braunfels and North Walter. Several mom and pop stores and self-owned business populate the streets. It gives people a chance to see the city outside of the River Walk and hopefully spend money in those communities.

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