USL Championship soccer club Oklahoma City Energy FC has hailed Oklahoma City Council’s decision to significantly boost funding for a proposed new stadium.
Although still a member of the second tier of the US soccer system, Energy FC has not competed since the 2021 season owing to its inability to secure a regulation venue. However, an 8,000-seat stadium is in the works that intends to be the focal point of a sports-centred entertainment district downtown.
The Council states this model has proven to be successful in Louisville, Kentucky; and Indianapolis, Indiana. A similar project is under construction in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
The venue will be Oklahoma City’s only stadium with a United States Soccer Federation (USSF)-approved pitch to accommodate professional men’s and women’s soccer. When the area develops, visitors will be able to walk from restaurants, retail and housing to attend events in the new entertainment district.
The stadium project had been included under MAPS 4, a debt-free public improvement program funded by a temporary penny sales tax that intends to raise a projected $1.07bn (£845.5m/€985.5m) over eight years.
Oklahoma City Council yesterday (Tuesday) approved using economic development funds to increase the budget for the MAPS 4 Multipurpose Stadium from $41m to $71m. The additional funding is contingent on the stadium being located downtown, where an additional $30m in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and other economic development funds could pay for a portion of construction costs.
“This outcome addresses three challenges,” Mayor David Holt said. “The MAPS 4 stadium project was always funded below the level this city deserves, the project never had a budget for land acquisition, and the land south of Bricktown needs a catalyst.
“With adoption of this plan by the Council, we have a more appropriate budget for the stadium, we can secure the donation of land, and we will provide the spark this particular property needs. That we can do all of this without general fund tax dollars is a win-win.”
Energy FC ownership is under contract to purchase an area of undeveloped property south of Bricktown and east of the Oklahoma City Convention Center from Producers Downtown Development. The ownership group plans to donate 7.2 acres of the area to the City for the stadium, which the City will own.
Energy FC plans to develop the remaining area into the sports-centred entertainment district. The land donation is dependent on approval from the MAPS 4 Venues Subcommittee and the MAPS 4 Citizens Advisory Board, which the City yesterday said could take place in early spring.
In response to yesterday’s news, the club said the increased investment will not only allow for the stadium to match the scale approved by Oklahoma City voters in 2019, but will serve as an economic and entertainment driver in the undeveloped property south of Bricktown.
Oklahoma City Energy FC partner, Bob Funk Jr., added: “We’re thrilled about taking this next step forward towards the development of the MAPS 4 Stadium and bringing the world’s game to downtown Oklahoma City.
“It’s a very exciting time to be a soccer fan in Oklahoma, as we look ahead to the United States hosting global events such as the 2024 Copa América, the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup and the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
“Soon after these tournaments take place in neighbouring states, Oklahoma City will be opening an outdoor venue of its own. Moreover, the stadium will function as a community gathering place as it welcomes a variety of concerts and other events.”
A stadium design is reportedly targeted for competition by the beginning of 2025, with construction expected to be completed by the middle of 2026.
Holt, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, last month hailed the results of a public vote that is set to see the city retain the NBA basketball franchise on a long-term basis at a new arena that will be almost entirely publicly funded.
Oklahoma City residents voted 71% in favour of the scheme. Voters approved a penny sales tax to build a new, publicly owned downtown arena, securing OKC as home to the Thunder beyond 2050. MAPS 4 funding is also part of the financing plan.