On Tuesday, Oklahoma City will vote on whether a new arena will be built, which will have lasting effects regardless of the result.
A potential new arena in Oklahoma City would host many events, but the arena’s main attraction would be the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder’s presence in Oklahoma has been undeniably positive, but their presence is not guaranteed.
A new arena is the key to securing the Thunder's future in Oklahoma City.
While opponents of the new arena vote have been vocal about the lack of contribution from the Thunder’s ownership, the price must be paid to keep one of Oklahoma’s top attractions. The Thunder’s ownership has pledged to give $50 million toward the cost of the $900 million arena.
While that is not much, the equation for the ownership group is simple. Oklahoma City needs the Thunder more than the Thunder needs Oklahoma City.
The Thunder helped put Oklahoma City on the map, specifically with the success in the early 2010s. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook led the team to constant sellouts and deep playoff runs for the better part of a decade.
After that, the Thunder went into rebuild mode to begin the 2020s, and their lack of success may have contributed to lower support for a new arena. But with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams leading the new era of Thunder basketball, public opinion may be in the right spot for a new arena.
That support was seen in Friday’s win against the Golden State Warriors. The atmosphere in Paycom Center was reminiscent of the early days, as noted by one of the Thunder’s stars.
"My first year when I was with the Clippers, it was insane in here,” Gilgeous-Alexander said after Friday’s game.
He then noted that it felt the exact same during the Thunder’s overtime thriller. While the team may only play in Paycom Center for another few seasons, future players are bound to have the same experience if the Thunder sticks around.
If the vote passes, the Thunder are committed to sticking around through at least 2050. If they make it to that point, that would put them in Oklahoma City for longer than the Supersonics were in Seattle.
Of course, the Sonics are now the Thunder after the debacle in the Pacific Northwest regarding the status of KeyArena. That is a cautionary tale that Oklahoma City citizens should consider as they vote.
Oklahoma City will lose the Thunder via relocation with a “no” vote, and the city would still survive without a professional basketball team. However, for the growth of the city and state to thrive for the foreseeable future, a new arena is best for almost everyone involved.