Downtown OKC Restaurant Owner Talks Potential Impact Of New Arena

After a landslide approval for the new OKC arena, one local business says it will bring positive impacts.

Wednesday, December 13th 2023, 5:43 pm

By: News 9, Chris Yu

A downtown Oklahoma City restaurant owner said she is optimistic that a new arena can have a positive impact on businesses.

On Tuesday, nearly 71% of voters approved a proposition to build a new arena to replace Paycom Center. The project, expected to cost at least $900 million, will be mostly funded by a 1-cent sales tax that will last six years and will begin once the current MAPS 4-penny sales tax ends in 2028. Because it's a continuation of a 1-cent sales tax, it will not increase the current sales tax rate. In addition, the arena will be funded by $70 million from MAPS 4 and $50 million from the Thunder owners.

The Thunder is expected to move into the new arena no later than the start of the 2029-2030 NBA season and will play there for 25 years, the city said. "What a relief to know that we're going to be a big-league city for another generation," said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. "My kids will be my age when we have to talk about this again."

City Manager Craig Freeman said Wednesday afternoon that a possible location for the new arena is the site of Prairie Surf Media. The city is also considering other options and is expected to make a decision in the next few months, Freeman added.

Just blocks away from the Paycom Center is Naija Wife Kitchen at 119 N. Robinson Ave. Owner Tahnee Francis said she serves Nigerian cuisine for the American palate."It's just like a warm hug, I would say. Very comforting, very welcoming," said Francis of her food.

While Francis' restaurant has been featured in various publications, she said business has not been booming recently. "And that's for a lot of small restaurants that I talked to that I'm close with," said Francis.

Despite business being somewhat slow, Francis said she did gain new customers whenever Paycom Center hosted an event. "People coming from out of town. I get a lot more DoorDash," said Francis. "So I ask people, 'Where you from?' And they'll say, 'We're coming for this game and we're coming for this event.' They stay the weekend and they decide they want to eat locally and stay locally."

Francis said she was initially worried that taxes would increase to fund the new arena. But after learning that the current sales tax would stay the same, she said she expects an overall positive impact. "Me being from Dallas, from a bigger city, most people drive to Dallas. And now, people will be coming here from other states," said Francis. "Wow, the big artists are coming to OKC. OKC is really being put on the map. The Thunder are getting better. They're great and yeah, I think OKC is on its way to being a big city."

A recent study by Applied Economics said the current Paycom Center hosts 114 events a year and has an annual economic impact of $590 million.


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