Several weeks ago, the current mayor of Oklahoma City (OKC) stated that an agreement for a new arena with the Oklahoma City Thunder should be finished “before the end of 2023”. How would it be paid for? Well, things are “fluid” according to the mayor….as if that helps answer the question.
He also called the current Arena “not what it used to be…the building itself is a growing liability”. If we fast-forward a bit to this week, does anyone want to guess which piece of crap arena is getting taxpayer-funded upgrades? The winner is the Paycom Center, home of the Thunder! This week, media in Oklahoma City were shown the newest upgrades to Paycom Center, home to the Thunder.
What type of upgrades are we talking about?
- A new and massive 14-ton jumbotron that wraps around the arena.
- Two additional 8-foot screens for courtside fans.
- Twelve additional screens were added throughout the arena
- Seating changes and elevator updates
Can you believe that all of this only cost taxpayers about $9 million?
The upgrades were paid for by taxpayers thanks to a funding system called MAPS4. To make a long-story short, MAPS4 is essentially a pot of money that is funded through an increase in sales tax. Then, the money is given out to things like the Thunder or other city projects. But every so often, taxpayers are asked to continue funding MAPS4 through a public vote.
For example, in 2019, OKC residents were asked to fund an additional $100 million dollars into the current arena to “keep it competitive as an NBA host and concert site”. Don’t forget about the public spending a few more million dollars on the Thunders practice facility. I did chuckle in the story above at the “special projects manager” for OKC stating that if the taxpayers passed the 2019 requests, then the arena “should be viable beyond (2032)“. Yet, the 2019 requests were passed and the mayor is calling the arena out for being old and we are not that close to 2032.
So, are the upgrades today the only ones being done to the current arena? Nobody knows yet. What we do know is that the mayor is going on social media and interviews telling residents to “Stay Tuned. Stay engaged…be ready to step up”. Is this about a new arena? Or more changes to the current one? If an agreement for a new arena is close, aren’t all of these changes, that are costing millions of public dollars, going to an arena that won’t be used for games in not even a decade? Yup. The Thunder’s lease is over in 2026.
So, get ready for another public vote in the near future?