Before the unveiling of the name “Oklahoma City Thunder,” there was a brief kerfuffle over whether they shouldn’t bring the whole state into the picture and call it “Oklahoma Somethingorother.” The argument was made, apparently successfully, that Oklahoma City was in need of a boost to its national profile: while everyone who ever got assigned to read Steinbeck in high school had at least heard of Oklahoma, the only thing most people knew about OKC was that some idiot blew up a building here.
But if Oklahoma City isn’t a household name, imagine the plight of Columbus, Ohio:
[T]he name “Columbus” itself … is just very generic and has no brand recognition. Columbus is probably the biggest city in America where the state is almost always given along with the city, i.e., “Columbus, Ohio” versus “Cincinnati”. Say Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, St. Louis and by themselves people know where you are talking about at at least something about it. But say Columbus and people probably think of a town named Columbus in their own state, like Columbus, Indiana or Columbus, Georgia. This is one area the lack of pro sports probably hurts the city badly, since cities with major league franchises are constantly getting their name on TV. (I have long endorsed viewing pro sports subsidies as basically a naming rights sponsorship, where the city pays to put its name on the team for marketing exposure. How much would it cost to buy all those TV impressions? A lot more than the cost of the team.) Heck, type “Columbus” into Wikipedia and you get back a disambiguation page.
Of course, being perched on 71 about halfway between Cincinnati and Cleveland probably eliminates any chance of Columbus getting a team in one of the “major” leagues; Austin, on the edge of San Antonio and not so far from either Dallas or Houston, has the same sort of problem, and it’s even bigger than Columbus. Then again, typing “Austin” into Wikipedia doesn’t give you a disambiguation page.
One thing Columbus does have in common with Oklahoma City: a history of vigorous annexation, though while OKC’s has slowed, Columbus continues to expand. Here’s why:
Back in the 1950′s or so, one of their mayors made a key decision. He refused to extend water service to places that did not agree to be annexed. Thus Columbus was able to expand geographically where most Midwestern cities got hemmed in. So while it does not have a city-county merger in effect, Columbus takes up a huge amount of the county, with a population in the city proper of over 700,000 people. Ohio has very favorable annexation laws for cities that control utilities. If you get utility service from a city, you can’t stop them from annexing you — and you can annex across county lines, something that Columbus has already done.
And that Oklahoma City has done: there are sections of OKC in Canadian and Cleveland counties, and a sliver in Pottawatomie. (Not all of them get city water, either.)
One other marked difference between OKC and Columbus: infamous speed traps on the edge of town. New Rome, Ohio is gone, but Valley Brook, Oklahoma remains.
Addendum: Fixed the “major-league” reference.