OKC Thunder poised to stay through 2050 with new arena proposal

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt (L) (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt (L) (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder have been in Bricktown for 15 years, and each of those seasons has been played in the Paycom Center. Though the name has seen tweaks, the building remains the same. It is time to build a new arena in downtown Oklahoma City to ensure the franchise’s future.

There is no denying just how good the OKC Thunder have been for the state of Oklahoma, the economy of Oklahoma City, and the growth and legitimization of the city we all love. No matter where you are from in Oklahoma, OKC represents the state’s heartbeat.

New Arena plans revealed by Mayor David Holt, with a vote set for December 12th, to keep the OKC Thunder in Bricktown through 2050.

Any time a new arena gets brought up, it opens the door for teams to leave. A tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme; when the current home for a pro sports franchise becomes dated or unfit, the community has to step up, or else the owners will skip town.

We saw this in Seattle to net Oklahoma City a team. Oakland is about to lose another franchise for this very reason with the A’s darting to Vegas, and there is no shortage of cities dying for a pro sports franchise to make them a legit “big league city.”

Even places that house some professional sports would love to get in on the NBA coming to town. This gives owners a ton of leverage when the bill comes due for a new arena. Today, the Mayor of Oklahoma City, David Holt, revealed the details of the new arena play for the Thunder.

The OKC Thunder ownership group led by Clay Bennett worked with Mayor Holt to discuss the best options for this new arena plan and settled on a potential 900 million dollar arena plan that will be voted on December 12th, 2023.

While the taxes for Oklahoma City residents will not necessarily rise, it will extend the current one-cent sales tax that is already in place but was previously set to expire. The OKC Thunder will put up 50 million dollars of the 900 million dollar budget and will be tenants in the new basketball palace. There will also be 70 million dollars put toward this stadium from the MAPS 4 project.

This new arena is set to debut by or before the 2029-30 NBA season and will ensure the Oklahoma City Thunder remain in town through 2050. This will also allow Oklahoma City to host world-class concerts and other major events that drive economic growth and define the City’s quality of life, according to the press release.

While the Paycom Center is full of memories, it is incapable of housing such major events (Think: even Taylor Swift’s Era tour) and is one of the oldest in the league, the most minor NBA arena by square footage, and second smallest by capacity.

"“For fifteen years the Thunder has been honored to help lead the transformation of Oklahoma City and enhance the tremendous pride our citizens have in their community,” said Oklahoma City Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett. “We now have an opportunity to build on that progress, advance our status as a true big-league City, continue to grow our economy and secure the long-term future of the Thunder. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Mayor Holt, members of the City Council, and the forward-thinking business and civic leaders in our community. Together we can develop an arena to serve as a crowning achievement in the ongoing renaissance of Oklahoma City.” – Oklahoma City Thunder chairman Clay Bennett said"

The 21-year-old arena will get a facelift this season as a previously voted-on upgrade to their scoreboard has already been implemented, along with tweaks to the seats inside Paycom Center. That facelift should hold OKC Thunder fans over until this new arena is erected in Bricktown.

December 12th’s vote on this potential new arena also holds the keys to the future of the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise. The cold reality is that It is rare that taxpayers vote to reject a new stadium and still see their current team stay put.

The OKC Thunder saw their 15-year lease expire earlier this season, prompting them to sign a short-term lease that expires in 2026. Should this new arena pass, the Oklahoma City Thunder will sign another long-term lease, keeping them in Bricktown through 2050.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt calls this proposal a “win-win” while advocating for Oklahoma City residents to turn out and vote for this new 900-million-dollar arena. One way or another, December 12th, 2023, will be a landmark day in Oklahoma City history.

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