A new downtown arena will be built for the Oklahoma City Thunder after a deal was struck between the NBA basketball league franchise and the City Council.
The announcement was made by the local authority, which said that a deal had been struck “after 14 months of public discussion and collaborative dialogue between Oklahoma City leaders and the leadership of the Oklahoma City Thunder”.
The team has committed to play at the proposed $900m (£721m/€838m) arena for at least 25 years and will pay $50m towards the development.
Plans are contingent on the extension of a temporary one-cent sales tax, which would raise $1.1bn. Approval of the extension will be required from Oklahoma City voters on December 12, while $70m from the city’s budget has also been set aside. However, Mayor David Holt has pledged that the arena will be built “without raising taxes”.
It is hoped that the arena will open for the start of the 2029-30 season. The team’s current home, Paycom Center, is one of the NBA’s oldest facilities and the smallest in terms of square feet.
The team has played at the 21-year-old Paycom Center since moving to Oklahoma City from Seattle in 2008, and a short-term lease extension was exercised earlier this year.
“For 15 years the Thunder has been honoured to help lead the transformation of Oklahoma City and enhance the tremendous pride our citizens have in their community,” Clay Bennett, who leads the Thunder’s ownership group, said.
“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.”
Holt added: “As this very public discussion played out over the last year, the people of Oklahoma City have overwhelmingly expressed to me two desires – to keep the Thunder for as long as possible, and don’t raise taxes if it can be avoided. We have accomplished those two priorities with this plan, and it is truly a win-win for all of us.
“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.”
The city estimates that the Thunder contributes $600m to the city’s economy per year.
In July, Holt said that a deal was close to being reached on a “jointly agreeable proposal” for a new arena and added: “We believe we can and must present this agreement before the end of summer, with an election before the end of 2023.”