The Oklahoma City Thunder have the smallest arena in the NBA, it’s certainly old and it was time for a new home.
Plans have been finalized for a new $900 million arena in downtown Oklahoma City that will lock the Thunder into the city until 2050. Mayor David Holt announced.
“For fifteen years, the Thunder has been proud to help transform Oklahoma City and increase the tremendous pride our citizens have in their community,” Thunder President Kelly Bennett said in a statement. “We now have an opportunity to build on this progress, enhance our status as a true Premier League city, continue to grow our economy and secure the long-term future of the Thunder. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Mayor Holt.” City Council members and forward-thinking business and civic leaders in our community. Together we can create an arena that stands as a landmark achievement in Oklahoma City’s ongoing renaissance.
Thunder’s ownership reaches 50 million dollars. However, the bulk of that arena will be funded by a continuation of the one-cent sales tax — for another six years — that must be approved by voters. On Dec. 12, the city will hold a special election on the tax, which will require a simple majority to pass.
Supporters say there is no new tax to fund the arena because it is an existing tax extension. This plan has been accompanied by reactionsAnd opponents of the tax have a clear argument to make, “Why should taxpayers help fund an arena for billionaires who own a team?” The group bought the Thunder – then the Seattle Super Sonics – for $350 million and moved them to OKC. Forbes currently values this franchise at $1.9 billion.
While Holt praised the Thunder’s ownership contribution — “It’s also worth noting that the team’s $50 million donation is a first in City history, and this commitment to this community is deeply appreciated” — The Oklahoman noted This ownership adds 5.5 percent of costs, while other new NBA arenas saw a much higher ownership share. In Milwaukee, ownership accounts for 33 percent of Fiserv’s community fees. Pistons Ownership put up 67 percent of the funding for Little Caesars Arena, and Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadeo put up 51 percent of the cost of Golden Center 1, now the home of the Kings. (Steve Ballmer is footing the entire bill for the new $2 billion Intuit Dome that houses the Clippers, but it’s unfair to compare other owners to Ballmer in terms of wealth or willingness to spend.)
The Thunder aren’t looking to raise stock and exit one of the NBA’s smallest markets, they’re investing in it — that’s important. As Thunder is very popular in the city. Add in the Thunder’s economic boost to downtown, and the fact that it’s not a new tax per se, but a continuation of an existing tax, may sway a majority of voters to support the plan. Politicians in OKC are smart enough not to put this sweeping measure on the ballot without polls showing them it’s very likely to pass.
But it will be in the hands of Oklahoma City voters in December.