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Mayor David Holt Unveils Proposal for New Downtown Arena, Secures Thunder’s Stay in OKC Beyond 2050

The city of Oklahoma City has unveiled a finalized plan to construct a new downtown arena, ensuring the OKC Thunder’s presence in the city beyond 2050, according to an announcement made by Mayor David Holt.

The comprehensive plan, which followed 14 months of public discourse and negotiations between city officials and Thunder leadership, is contingent upon the approval of a temporary one-cent sales tax by Oklahoma City voters on December 12.

This tax, slated to begin after the conclusion of the MAPS 4 initiative, will not result in an increase in the current sales tax rate.

On September 26, Mayor Holt and City Manager Craig Freeman will present the plan’s details to the OKC City Council, officially referring it to the residents of Oklahoma City for consideration.

A simple majority of the city council must approve the call for the December 12 election, with a subsequent simple majority of voters required for the plan to pass.

Additionally, the announcement highlights that Mayor Holt and City Manager Freeman will also provide a letter of intent signed by Oklahoma City Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett.

This letter commits the NBA team to playing in the new arena for 25 years if the December vote succeeds and all necessary legal documents are finalized.

Key Components of the Plan

1. New Downtown Arena: Oklahoma City’s plan includes the construction of a new publicly-owned downtown arena, marking the fourth in the city’s history. This initiative aims to maintain major league professional sports, world-class concerts, and other significant events that boost economic growth and enhance the city’s overall quality of life.

2. Thunder’s 25-Year Commitment: The Oklahoma City Thunder have made a significant commitment to this plan. They pledge to play their home games in OKC for the next 25 years in the new arena. However, this commitment is contingent upon voter approval for the funding of the new arena and the completion of related legal documents. This commitment ensures that Oklahoma City retains its big league status and continues to enjoy the economic and other benefits that have come with the Thunder’s presence since 2008.

3. Transition Period at Paycom Center: While the new arena is designed and constructed, the Thunder will continue playing at the Paycom Center. This extended commitment means that the Thunder’s presence in Oklahoma City will extend beyond 2050, which is twice the length of their original commitment made in 2008.

4. Project Funding: The new arena’s estimated project cost is a minimum of $900 million. Funding for this project will primarily come from three sources:

   – A temporary one-cent sales tax lasting 72 months, commencing after the current MAPS 4 one-cent sales tax expires. Importantly, this will not increase Oklahoma City’s existing sales tax rate. It fairly shares the tax burden with non-resident visitors who attend events at the downtown arena.

   – At least $70 million from MAPS 4 funds that were initially designated for Oklahoma City’s downtown arena.

   – A groundbreaking $50 million contribution by the owners of the Oklahoma City Thunder toward the publicly owned arena. This represents the first instance in the city’s history where team owners have made such a substantial contribution to an arena project.

5. Opening Target: The City and the Thunder’s shared goal is to have the new arena ready for the 2029-2030 NBA season, with the possibility of an earlier opening. This timeline reflects their commitment to providing a state-of-the-art facility for both the team and the city’s residents.

The Oklahoma City project represents a significant commitment to the city’s future and its thriving sports and entertainment scene.

With the construction of a new downtown arena and an extended 25-year pledge from the Oklahoma City Thunder, this plan not only ensures the city’s continued status as a major league destination but also demonstrates a unique collaboration between sports franchise owners and the community.

By utilizing various funding sources, including a temporary sales tax and substantial team owner contributions, this project aims to create a state-of-the-art facility for residents and visitors alike, setting the stage for an exciting future in Oklahoma City.

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