In 2008, the Oklahoma City Thunder signed a 15-year agreement to play in Oklahoma City.
Last month, the Thunder extended the original agreement three more years until the 2025-2026 season.
“It almost seems like the NBA’s like, holding our city hostage, like, ‘if you don’t give us this, that the taxpayers don’t give us this arena, you know, like we’re going to move the team somewhere else,’” said OKC resident Alex Coleman to KFOR Monday, also emphasizing a growing need for affordable housing in the region.
“Out of state people might have the money to to buy the affordable housing here. But our residents don’t,” he continued.
KFOR has reported previously on the growing trend: out-of-state investors buying up properties across the state is part of a growing trend many believe is pricing Oklahomans out of the region.
In January, Neighborhood Services Organization in Oklahoma City also told KFOR the city was short 4,500 units of affordable housing.
“The facts speak plainly that we can never rest on our laurels and must always be proactive. I am extremely optimistic that we can and will secure a long-term relationship with the NBA because we have great partners in the Oklahoma City Thunder. And the time to open that dialogue is now,” said Holt during Thursday’s address.
In a follow-up interview with KFOR Monday, Holt said the signal sent by having a major sports league team was critical, that the Oklahoma City Thunder is a key component to the city’s growth, and an update to the Paycom Center is needed.
“We upgraded our barebones arena to get it at least up to more minimal NBA standards. But that was 15 years ago,” said Mayor Holt.
The mayor said revenue from the arena means more money for the city.
“What we’ve been able to do, thanks to the growth that has come with being a major league sports city is provide for everybody,” Holt said Monday, also saying that economic growth due, in part, to the presence of the Thunder has allowed the city to make deeper investments in OKC.
“The best example of that is MAPS 4,” he said. “$700 million going to [infrastructure] and and neighborhood needs,” he said, referencing improvements to the criminal justice system, mental health crisis centers and housing.
“We didn’t do those kinds of things in 1985 [because[ we didn’t have those kinds of resources in 1985 or in 1995,” he added. “So if you want to go back to 1985, by losing our relationship with major league sports, you’re also going back to a time period when we couldn’t help all the residents of our community.”
During the next three years, Holt says the city wants to work with the Thunder to develop a plan to keep the team in OKC for the forseeable future.
“If you want major league professional sports, you have to have the facilities,” he continued, citing the need to make a long-term investment with professional sports. “There are certain costs to that.”
The mayor said there’s no timeline yet for the proposal for arena expansion but other improvements on the existing facility are already in the works.