OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — During the Oklahoma City Council’s Tuesday meeting on a new arena for the OKC Thunder, Councilman James Cooper proposed a community benefits package that focuses on the employees of the new facility.
The plan was inspired by the Milwaukee Bucks organization when they built their new arena in 2018.
“One year ago, when Mayor Holt announced to the City that we were going to have an arena conversation, my mother knew I was a skeptic about public dollars going to stadiums and sports arenas, so she immediately said, ‘Baby, you need to figure out how to make it work,'” Cooper said.
That’s what he did after Mayor Holt and others visited Milwaukee. Seeing how they went about getting their new arena, Cooper wanted to do something similar to their model.
“The City of Milwaukee came together and said if Milwaukee was going to put to an election the construction of a new arena, then we should make sure community benefits agreement attaches itself to it,” Cooper said.
Being the first of its kind, Cooper wanted to follow in its footsteps.
“As part of this comprehensive plan, the Bucks are committing to living wage and first-source hiring previsions that will create opportunities for Milwaukee residents in disadvantage communities,” Cooper said.
Along with a living wage, the new OKC arena will enact a first-source hiring program that will require at least 50% of covered employees in the arena district to reside in specific Oklahoma City zip codes that are hit hard by unemployment and underemployment.
“The alliance will establish a hiring haul, also what’s called a workforce intermediary, to serve as a first source for potential employees including the recruiting, screening, training and referring of potential candidates to district employers,” Cooper said.
They also established a labor peace agreement.
“The new agreement includes a provision that will provide arena district employees with an opportunity to unionize in an environment that is neutral and free from traditional pressures that is associated with the contested and adversarial campaign and without labor unrest and work disruption,” Cooper said.
Both plans will now be up to the voters on December 12.
If the new arena is built, the arena is planned to open for the 2029 NBA season and the Thunder will be sticking around until at least 2050.