OKC plans for new Thunder arena

Sports editor Jaralynn Tammi Morellano discusses the new arena.
The Oklahoma City Council signed a letter of intent with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sept. 26, potentially keeping the OKC National Basketball Association (NBA) team in Oklahoma City until 2050. The Thunder has resided in OKC since 2008, and their license to do so expired this year in 2023. They extended their contract to give the city time to devise a plan for a new stadium.
The stadium they currently play in, the Paycom Center, is the smallest one in the NBA by square footage. It is also one of the oldest at 21 years of age. Until the new building is complete, the OKC Thunder will continue to play games there. According to the plan, the arena construction will finish by the 2029-2030 NBA season.
Mayor David Holt announced that the city will build a publicly owned arena in OKC’s downtown area. The building will keep the Thunder in OKC and provide more appeal, which allows the city to be a prime destination for premier concerts and similar events.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Clay Bennett, is excited to work with Mayor Holt to continue the Thunder culture in OKC. “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 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.”
Studies showed that the arena will result in an economic boost of $600 million while providing approximately 30,000 jobs. After signing the letter of intent, the Oklahoma City Council adopted a resolution directing the city manager to arrange enforcement of workforce intermediary programs. People working in the new stadium will get paid at the same rate for similar work in Oklahoma City.
The new arena will cost a minimum of $900 million, with $50 million of the cost provided by the OKC Thunder’s ownership. Seventy million dollars provided by the MAPS 4 tax will cover other portions of the cost. When the tax ends in 2028, the city will secure the remaining costs by enacting a one-cent sales tax.
Mayor Holt believes this deal is the best yet compared to the old stadiums built. Oklahoma City failed to secure any contributions during the past stadium plans in 1933, 1972, and 1993/2002. The mayor says it’s necessary to focus on the fact that there will be no increase in sales tax, and the Thunder will stay in Oklahoma for a significant amount of time.
“Perhaps the most important aspect of the deal is the length – this is twice the commitment we received in 2008 and will keep the Thunder here beyond 2050. My children will be my age when this agreement ends. For a generation, we will retain the economic impact and quality-of-life benefits we have enjoyed as a big-league city. It is an investment that pays for itself many times over.”
Civilians have mixed feelings about the construction of the arena. While fans are willing to deal with whatever it takes to keep the Thunder in Oklahoma City, others feel there are better ways to use taxpayer money. A city-wide election is set for Dec. 12 to vote on the arena’s construction.