OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Supporters of the plan to build a new $900 million arena in downtown Oklahoma City came together today for the official kickoff of their campaign. The Oklahoma City Mayor also had a message for those who plan to vote against the proposal.
Building a new arena in Oklahoma City is a hot topic. The Oklahoma City City Council gave the project a thumbs up earlier this week, but it will be up to the voters to decide.
Supporters went to Scissortail Park on Thursday morning to show their support for the new arena and the continuing economic growth the Thunder brings to Oklahoma City. Officials shared what they say are the benefits of a new arena. Oklahoma City officials stressed that a new arena would keep Oklahoma City a “big league city.”
“Since the Thunder arrived in 2008, we’ve gone from the 31st largest city to 20th… We’re now the sixth-fastest metro city in terms of GDP growth… $600 million is the annual economic impact the NBA team brings to our community,” said Sean Trauschke, Chairman, President & CEO OGE Energy Corp. and chairman of Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
One of the biggest cheerleaders for the new arena is Mayor David Holt. He talked about the impact the Thunder has on Oklahoma City and what it will mean if the arena is not approved. Officials shared what they say are benefits of a new arena.
Mayor Holt talked about the economic impact, number of jobs the team provides and their impact on small businesses.
“Anybody with eyes can see what has happened in these last 15 years,” said David Holt, Oklahoma City Mayor.
Without the new arena, Mayor Holt is confident the Thunder team will leave Oklahoma City.
“Our long term lease with this NBA team expired earlier this year. We are in a short term deal just to come up with a plan for a new arena… On Tuesday we came to an agreement conditional on this vote that the Thunder will stay beyond 2050. So that’s exciting., but we got to build a new arena to accomplish that,” said Mayor Holt.
Mayor Holt explained there’s a lot at stake if the vote doesn’t pass.
Right now, the Paycom Center is the smallest arena in the NBA. Holt said a new one is needed to keep up with league standards.
“The only comparison that we have at this point is this deal versus not having the team… But fortunately, we can do it without raising taxes,” said Mayor Holt.
But not everyone is on board with the plans.
Voters against the new arena are having doubts about what is at stake.
“I really don’t believe it. And I think the voters should be skeptical of it. And also, I think it’s worth pointing out who negotiates a contract under threat. Like, if this if they’re going to threaten us like that makes it should make us less excited to make this kind of investment. I just think they need to come back with a better deal, acknowledge that we have other needs in our city,” said Nick Singer.
However, Thunder super fan Glenda Love disagrees. She believes the team would leave if no new arena is built, based on previous action taken by the NBA.
“If people will remember how we got the team, it’s because Seattle would not build an arena up to NBA standards. And the Thunder, I have not heard them threaten to do anything, but they don’t have to because The NBA will step in and if our arena doesn’t meet their standards, they will tell the thunder, you have to go,” said Glenda Love, Thunder super fan.
Most of those opposed to the plan want the Thunder to give more than $50 million to the project.
Voters will be asked to approve a temporary one cent sales to help pay for the $900 million dollar arena. That would not increase the current sales tax. It would begin when the current MAPS 4 Tax ends.
That special election is set for December 12.