Oklahoma City Chamber Discusses Arena Impact Ahead of Vote For New Facility

The Oklahoma City Chamber is discussing the impacts of a new arena, as voters are set to decide whether to publicly fund the proposed NBA arena.

Wednesday, November 15th 2023, 6:50 pm

By: News 9


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With Oklahoma City voters set to decide whether to publicly fund a new NBA arena, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber hosted a discussion to talk about the economic impact of the current arena and what the new facility may bring.

Voters will cast their ballots on Dec. 12 to determine if a temporary 1-cent sales tax will be enacted following the expiration of the current MAPS 4 1-cent sales tax. The new 1-cent sales tax would last for six years to fund the majority of the new arena, which the city said would cost at least $900 million. The owners of the Oklahoma City Thunder would contribute $50 million while at least $70 million would come from MAPS 4 that was previously earmarked for the downtown arena, the city said.

Should the new arena be built, the Thunder would commit to playing their home games there for 25 years, according to the city.

During Wednesday's panel discussion at the Petroleum Club of Oklahoma City, Eric Long, research economist at the Chamber, talked about the economic impact of the existing Paycom Center.

"The overall impact for the arena is $590 million. That's an annual average impact. It supports over 3,200 jobs and $300 million in labor income," said Long.

Long was citing a study by Applied Economics, a firm based in Phoenix Arizona, which prepared a study examining how the existing arena affects the community. The study said Paycom Center currently hosts 114 events per year. The operations of the arena plus the operations of the Thunder basketball team support an annual economic impact of $513 million, the study said. The arena also supports an induced economic impact of $77 million per year from visitors, the study added.

The study estimated that the new arena would generate an economic impact of $1.3 billion and support 10,000 jobs during the multi-year construction phase. Once the facility is complete, the study projected that the number of ticketed third-party events could increase.

"There's more and more new venues every single year, so the competition bar is raised annually," said Chris Semrau, general manager of Paycom Center. "And so for us to stay competitive in the concert game, we need to modernize our facility."

Semrau added that having a new arena would also allow more flexibility.

"For the tours, it allows you to have a more strategic seating layout to maximize ticket sales for an event," said Semrau.

After Wednesday's panel discussion, a group called Oklahoma Progress Now voiced their opposition to the arena project. Their campaign, called Buy Your Own Arena, focuses on the burden that the project would have on taxpayers.

"This is the worst arena deal in the United States," said Nick Singer, communications director for Oklahoma Progress Now. We're on the hook for 95% of the cost. No NBA arena in the country's been built with more than 50% public support in the last decade."

Singer said the Thunders owners contributing $50 million toward the project is not enough, given their wealth.

"The Thunder ownership group, while we may be a smaller market, they're the third wealthiest ownership group in the NBA," said Singer. They're collectively worth $25 billion. And I just think it is unfair and kind of outrageous to ask people buying food and medicine and diapers to pay for an arena when these billionaires are the ones who get to profit from it."

Nabilah Rawdah, executive director of Oklahoma Progress Now, said the arena project could delay other projects and would force many economically disadvantaged minorities to foot the cost of the facility.

"We do have an open-records request to see how the mayor negotiated. That has not been responded to," said Rawdah.

The deadline to register to vote on Dec. 12 is Friday, Nov. 17.

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