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Mayor, councilmembers: Keeping OKC 'big league' is critical to our city's aspirations


Thirty years ago next week, Oklahoma City’s modern renaissance began when the people of Oklahoma City approved the original MAPS.  

There are at least two reasons for our city’s success these last three decades:

1. A city that continues to invest in itself is a city that will grow and thrive.

2. A city that works together will get things done.  

A different take:Councilwomen say vote 'no' on the arena deal; OKC residents deserve transparency, involvement

The seven of us are not all registered with the same political party. We live all across the city. We have very different backgrounds and perspectives. We are different generations. But, each of us voted to send this proposal to the voters on Tuesday. We each have different reasons for doing so. Our thoughts about this proposal are as unique as our wards and our constituents. Some of us like different aspects of the proposal a lot more than others. All of us accept that outcomes are never just as we want them to be. But, we each recognize that keeping Oklahoma City “big league” is critical to realizing the aspirations we each have for our great city.  

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Does Thunder really need a new arena? Only if it wants to keep up with NBA peers


Joe Mussatto

The Oklahoman

Finances and politics aside, the questions I hear most often are these: Does the Thunder really need a new arena? Isn’t Paycom Center nice enough?

Yes and no. As in yes, the Thunder really needs a new arena. And no, Paycom Center isn’t nice enough. 

I’ve covered a game in all 29 NBA arenas, and in July 2022 I ranked Paycom Center 27th, ahead of only Frost Bank Center in San Antonio and Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. 

Madison Square Garden was my No. 1. It’s outdated, but I’m a sucker for history. If Muhammad Ali had fought Joe Frazier at Paycom Center, it’d be higher on my list. 

Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center, both built in the last seven years, ranked second and third on my list. Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee was eighth. 

The new buildings in Sacramento and Milwaukee — Milwaukee, especially, given the market similarities — are an example of what Oklahoma City could have. A new, state-of-the-art venue built for basketball. 

Because here’s the deal: Paycom Center was built as a stopgap. It was designed as a hockey arena, one that successfully disguised itself as a basketball gym for hundreds of glorious games, including the Thunder’s NBA Finals run in 2012. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander launched superstar careers in that building. 

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Keep OKC Big League Campaign Adds 19 More Endorsements


OKLAHOMA CITY – Nov. 28, 2023 – The Keep OKC Big League campaign today announced an additional 19 members to the coalition supporting passage of an initiative to build a new downtown arena.

In addition to more than three dozen community and civic organization endorsements announced in early November, more endorsements are rolling in from arts organizations, economic development groups and labor associations.

The arena would be the new home of the Oklahoma City Thunder and would also host world-class entertainment, events, and sporting activities. A list of the new coalition members, as well as a complete list, is provided below. To learn more about how to get involved, go to

“OKC’s rise to the big leagues was a result of our city’s unified commitment to invest in ourselves,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, co-chair of the campaign.  “This remarkably diverse and broad coalition that has come together in support of a YES vote on December 12th demonstrates that our unity and our commitment remains strong.  When you look at this list of 60 organizations, you see many different perspectives, all parts of the city, and every imaginable demographic. This unity is why our momentum continues and it is how we will keep OKC big league.”

The tremendous impact on Oklahoma City’s economy reverberates throughout the community, creating jobs, enhancing quality of life, and strengthening the community in a variety of ways, officials say.

“A growing economy helps all of OKC,” said Mark Nelson, president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police. “The vibrancy brought by arena activities has been a big part of our city’s ability to better fund vital services like public safety. The momentum of being an NBA city should not be taken for granted and Oklahoma City’s police officers are proud to offer their support.”

The NBA means so much more to Oklahoma City than basketball as the team reaches out continually to support community initiatives and nonprofit organizations. From the Thunder Book Bus; to their annual Holiday Assist for families; to visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and more, the team makes an impact throughout Oklahoma.

“The Urban League joined this coalition because we see the value the Thunder and its community relations work brings to our clients and community,” said Dr. Valerie Thompson, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City. “We are partners with the Thunder on so many initiatives that lift the lives of children and families. Yes, they are a basketball team, but they also play a much bigger, vital role in raising our community,” she said.

While the Thunder brings fans together around the game of basketball, the team also supports businesses, jobs, and Oklahoma City families, creating a sense of unity everyone shares, supporters say.

“Arena jobs help businesses throughout the community,” said Salvador Ontiveros, president and chief executive of the Latino Community Development Agency.  “The economic impact is not limited just to construction or jobs in the arena, but it also generates a great deal directly for our hospitality industry which then supports jobs of every type and kind.  A yes vote is about much more than just basketball, it is about supporting our local businesses, their employees, and those families who depend on the economic benefit created by an active arena.”

The Oklahoma City organizations that have added their names to the coalition of arena supporters illustrates how investments Oklahoma City makes in itself can pay dividends far into the future. A list of new coalition members is below, along with a full list of all endorsing organizations.

  • New Endorsements: American Council of Engineering Companies of Oklahoma, American Federation of Teachers – Oklahoma City, American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma, Arts Council Oklahoma City, Association of Oklahoma General Contractors, Cleats for Kids, Greater Oklahoma City Asian Chamber of Commerce, Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Latino Community Development Agency, OKC Firefighters Association, OKC Fraternal Order of Police, Oklahoma City Ballet, Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma City Community Foundation, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, The State Chamber of Oklahoma, Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.

  • Full List of Arena Endorsements: Allied Arts OKC, American Council of Engineering Companies of Oklahoma, American Federation of Teachers – Oklahoma City, American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma, Arts Council Oklahoma City, Associated General Contractors of Oklahoma, Association of Oklahoma General Contractors, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Baptist Ministers Association, Boys and Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County, Bricktown Association, Capitol Hill Main Street (Calle dos Cinco), Central Oklahoma Labor Federation, Chickasaw Nation, Cleats for Kids, Concerned Clergy for Spiritual Renewal, dead Center Film, Del City Chamber of Commerce, Downtown OKC Business Improvement District, Downtown OKC Partnership, Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce, Fields & Futures, Greater Oklahoma City Asian Chamber of Commerce, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Greater Oklahoma City Metro Hotel Association, Laborers International Union of North America – Local 107, Latino Community Development Agency, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, Midtown OKC, Midwest City Chamber of Commerce, Moore Chamber of Commerce, Norman Chamber of Commerce, North Oklahoma City Soccer Club, Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber, OKC Firefighters Association, OKC Fraternal Order of Police, Oklahoma Building Trades Council, Oklahoma City Ballet, Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma City Community Foundation, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Oklahoma City Innovation District, Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of REALTORS, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Oklahoma Hotel and Lodging Association, Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, Oklahoma Municipal Contractors, Oklahoma Restaurant Association, Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Travel Industry Association, Oklahoma Youth Expo, Positive Tomorrows, South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, The State Chamber of Oklahoma, United Way of Central Oklahoma, Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City, Visit OKC, West Village District Association, YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, Yukon Chamber of Commerce and YWCA Oklahoma City.

Annual economic impact of the Oklahoma City arena estimated at $590 million



The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber announced the results today of an economic impact study of Oklahoma City’s arena. The study finds an estimated annual impact of $590 million, supporting more than 3,000 jobs. The study also estimates the impact of construction of the new arena, which would generate more than $1.3 billion during the construction period and support more than 10,000 jobs.  

“This study, using real inputs from arena activity, makes it clear that the impact on our economy is significant,” said Christy Gillenwater, president, and CEO of the Chamber. “There is an important impact to the families dependent on the arena activity – those that work in the building, along with restaurants, hotels and companies that provide goods and services to the arena.”  

The study, conducted by Applied Economics of Phoenix, Arizona, also details the annual tax revenue impact of arena activity. Annual impact to the city of Oklahoma City is estimated at $9 million, Oklahoma County and school districts is $4 million and to the state of Oklahoma, $17 million. “The numbers are an important consideration,” explained Eric Long, the Chamber’s research economist. “These are dollars that support basic services for residents. Attracting visitors for these events supports local jobs and important government functions like improving our streets, our public safety and taking care of human needs.”  

Gillenwater said that the study underpins the argument for a new arena, providing conclusive information about the impact on everyday residents. “This arena matters for so many reasons – the image the NBA brings to our community, the world stage we are on because of what happens there, the joy and connection it brings to concertgoers and basketball fans – but a vitally important piece is the jobs it brings to families in our city.” 

A complete copy of the study can be found at

Vote YES on Dec. 12 to Keep OKC Big League


VeloCityOKC | Chamber Staff

The voters of Oklahoma City are faced with a critical decision on December 12 with the vote to build a new arena, secure decades of top-quality entertainment for the region, and set the stage for the city’s continued growth.   

“This is an incredibly important day for Oklahoma City,” said Christy Gillenwater, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “Securing a long-term lease for the Oklahoma City Thunder and maintaining our status as a big-league city is important to our city’s quality of life and to the trajectory of our economy. The presence of the NBA brings credibility and awareness to our market – losing it is unthinkable.”   

The ability to attract an even stronger concert schedule is also important to residents and to attracting visitor dollars. 

“Today’s modern arenas bring capabilities the biggest acts are looking for,” explained Zac Craig, president of Visit OKC, a division of the Chamber. “In selecting a route through the central U.S., many performers will play Kansas City or St. Louis, and then head south to play Dallas. When they are making a choice between Oklahoma City and Tulsa for that stop in between, we want that stop to be here and this new arena will help ensure that stop.”   

Gillenwater said the passage of the arena is important for many reasons, but one of the biggest is the economic impact. 

“We know that the arena generates an impact to our economy of more than a half a billion dollars a year, and supports 3,000 jobs,” she said. “The construction jobs alone for this facility are also significant – more than 9,000 over the course of building the facility.” 


The current arena opened in 2001 and is one of the oldest, and the smallest, in the NBA. It lacks many of the fan amenities found in other arenas. The building also lacks loading docks and other infrastructure demanded by many of the larger touring acts playing arenas today. These demands are expected to grow in coming years, making Oklahoma City less competitive for attracting events residents demand.  

The Chamber is leading a coalition of organizations (listed below) working together to ensure the vote’s success. Chamber member businesses and organizations are encouraged to join the effort and share the campaign with customers, colleagues and employees. 

“If you support this effort, we have numerous ways to help,” explained Gillenwater. “From signs in front of your business, to providing brochures and information to customers, to emailing your employees with information on the vote and more. Voter registration is still open until November 17, and hosting registration drives for employees and customers is a great way to get involved.” 

Members will receive a link later this month to a toolkit to help support their efforts.

Building a new arena is about more than keeping the Thunder — it’s about keeping the NBA


SelloutCrowd | Jenni Carlson

There are small markets, and then there’s us. 

We are an outlier in every way. We have to fight every single day to keep our spot in this exclusive society. We have to scratch. We have to claw. And frankly, if we decide not to build a new arena, we’ll be giving up the fight. 

Honestly, the Thunder itself has fought hard to make itself as much a part of the club as it can. The franchise put together contending team after contending team, making great picks in the draft, developing their talent, then paying a bunch of those players as much as the NBA rules allowed. At the height of the Thunder’s success, its payroll was every bit as robust as any team in the league.

Read the full editorial at the

An arena has been the centerpiece of OKC's renaissance, proven by 30 years of success


The Oklahoman | Devery Youngblood

Two things to remember when a small number of economists share negative opinions about Oklahoma City’s new arena: First, the voices may be new, but their arguments are not, and second, they are telling us that doing what we have done successfully for the last 30 years is suddenly bad.

Oklahoma City’s renaissance story has been studied with envy by cities worldwide. If we had listened to narrow academic studies when the arena was a central argument in votes in 1993 and thereafter, few, if any, of the major accomplishments that have taken Oklahoma City from the 30th- to the 20th-largest city in the U.S. would have happened.

An arena has always been the centerpiece of OKC’s innovative self-help effort, producing energy and economic impact that academic studies cannot predict, but 30 years of OKC success prove.

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Economist: After all the good OKC voters have seen over the past 30 years, why stop now?


The Oklahoman | Robert Dauffenbach

I wonder what Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick was thinking when he went out on a limb 30 years ago to propose the first MAPS initiative.

He and other city leaders were probably frustrated at the time and willing to try just about anything to pull the city out of economic doldrums still lingering from the Oil Bust. And they might have still felt the sting of United Airlines’ decision to build its $1 billion maintenance center in Indianapolis rather than OKC.

Oklahoma City was getting used to disappointment in those days, but the tide began to turn in December 1993 when voters approved the first list of Metropolitan Area Projects. Financed through a one-cent sales tax, the projects included a ballpark, an arena, a canal through Bricktown, dams and locks along the Oklahoma River, a downtown library and the list goes on.

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Editorial: Why we support building a new arena in Oklahoma City


The Oklahoman | Clytie Bunyan

We’ve seen much commentary in recent weeks about Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt’s proposal for an estimated $900 million arena to accommodate the OKC Thunder through 2050. 

Those who oppose the proposal believe it's not a fiscally sound plan for the city, that the $50 million the Thunder owners are contributing to the project is insignificant ― “insulting,” as one reader suggests. They believe taxpayers should not shoulder the remaining $850 million. 

And they're not alone. At least three economists say they're not sure the city is getting the better end of the arena deal. One economist said, "It’s more of a social and cultural benefit than it is an economic benefit," that "arenas and stadiums are not engines for economic development."

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Thunder game in Montreal offers business development platform for Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s recent pre-season exhibition game in Montreal offered the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s economic development team a unique opportunity to showcase the city for business expansion and investment. Like Oklahoma City, the region boasts a strong aerospace presence and there is a strong potential for partnership.

The Chamber, along with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, hosted 30 people at a reception prior to the game, including international aerospace manufacturers, local industry leaders, venture capitalists and international trade specialists. “We have been interested in developing relationships in Montreal for some time,” explained Jeff Seymour, the Chamber’s executive vice president of economic development. “There are Montreal-based companies involved in activity in our defense and private sector, and we see the opportunity to grow those relationships.”

The team was able to attract participants due to their interest in Oklahoma City and potential partnerships, but also because of their interest in basketball. “The game was a great hook to engage,” Seymour continued. “Everyone we talked to in Montreal, when they heard we were from Oklahoma City expressed excitement about the game – from customs officers to taxi drivers to our clients. The city was excited to host the game and we were able to really ride that wave and make excellent connections.”

The Chamber’s staff and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce will now take those contacts and continue to look for future connections, growing that business pipeline and building stronger relationships.

Community coalition launches campaign for new Oklahoma City arena


OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- A community coalition led by Mayor David Holt and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Chairman Sean Trauschke launched the Keep OKC Big League campaign today to support extending Oklahoma City’s temporary one-cent sales tax to build a new arena in downtown Oklahoma City.

“Our community has a very clear choice on December 12,” said Mayor David Holt. “We have the opportunity to secure the presence of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the NBA for another generation, and to make Oklahoma City a stronger destination for the best touring concerts, shows and other events. To that question, I say yes.”

Holt’s campaign co-chair Sean Trauschke said Oklahoma City has always succeeded when we invest in ourselves. “It is the best way to keep Oklahoma City growing and thriving,” he said. “And this is an investment we need to make. The importance of the arena, and of the Thunder to the city’s economic growth is evident. Our city has been forever changed by the presence of the NBA.” said Trauschke.

The team’s presence here provides a direct economic benefit to our city of $600 million a year. “The presence of the NBA gives us a leg up when competing for jobs and talent,” he continued. “Their value is also proven out in the growth in the region’s gross metropolitan product since the team’s arrival, with growth dramatically outpacing other metros that do not have a team.”

The campaign includes individuals and organizations from across the city. “The enthusiasm we have received for our effort has reinforced for me how much our city values this important asset,” said Holt. “Our support grows larger every day and I encourage anyone who wants to be involved and help us secure a victory to reach out to the campaign.”

“We cannot take this vote for granted,” said Trauschke. “If you care about this city and want to join in our effort, visit our website at There is information there about how you can get involved and be a part of making sure we keep OKC big league,” he concluded.

City Council approves letter of intent with the Oklahoma City Thunder and sets Dec. 12 election to fund new arena

Oklahoma City Council approved a letter of intent with the Oklahoma City Thunder today that potentially retains the team in OKC beyond 2050 and called a citywide election for Dec.12 to build a new, publicly owned downtown arena. The new arena is the primary condition for securing the commitment from the team.

The new arena is proposed to be funded in part by a 72-month, one-cent sales tax that will start when the MAPS 4 tax ends and will not increase the sales tax rate.

In the letter of intent, the Thunder’s ownership group agrees to keep the NBA basketball team in Oklahoma City beyond 2050 and contribute $50 million toward the cost of the new arena.

The new arena will secure Oklahoma City’s status as a destination for premier concerts and similar events. If passed, the new arena will be built downtown, but the exact location has not been determined.

Read more.

OKC unveils plan for new arena to keep Thunder through 2050


Oklahoma City has finalized plans to build a new downtown arena for the Thunder, the city announced Tuesday.

The Thunder have committed to play in the new arena for at least 25 years, according to the city's news release. The plan to construct the arena and the Thunder's commitment is conditional on the passage of a temporary one-cent sales tax by Oklahoma City voters on Dec. 12.

The projected cost of the arena will be a minimum of $900 million. Thunder ownership has committed to contribute $50 million.

"As this very public discussion played out over the last year, the people of Oklahoma City have overwhelmingly expressed to me two desires -- (1) keep the Thunder for as long as possible, and (2) 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," Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said in the news release.

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OKC building a new arena is price of being big-league city. 'We're not in the junior NBA.'


There are things about being a major-league city that stink.

Thinking about putting a 21-year-old arena out to pasture is no fun. Paycom Center is barely old enough to drink, but where pro facilities are concerned, it's soon to be over the hill.

Walking away from a building that has cost around $200 million is galling. To some people, that's chump change, but I am not one of those people.

But building a new downtown arena to replace Paycom Center is what Oklahoma City is going to have to do.


Because that’s the price of being a big-league city.

The issue of Oklahoma City needing a new arena for the Thunder has returned to consciousness and headlines, of course, after Mayor David Holt discussed it last week during his annual State of the City address. He said he expects a plan to be unveiled by the end of the summer and a vote to take place by the end of the year.

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OKC has had an NBA team for 15 years. Now, it's time we built an NBA arena.


Oklahoma City has had an NBA team for 15 years.

But we’ve never had an NBA arena.

Yes, the Thunder has a home arena. Sure, it plays at Paycom Center. But that arena wasn’t built for an NBA team.

It was built to lure a major-league franchise to OKC.

Mission accomplished.

The arena, then known as the Ford Center, provided a suitable nest for the Hornets when Hurricane Katrina flooded them out of New Orleans. A couple of years later, it gave the Sonics a soft landing spot when (ironically) an arena dispute pushed them out of Seattle.

And in the first decade-plus of the Thunder, what became known as Chesapeake Energy Arena was the backdrop for some of the most memorable moments in our city’s history. Shots that shook the rafters. Plays that will be part of hall-of-fame-induction videos.

Make no mistake, though: The arena was conceived to be a bare-bones facility for a hockey team. Oh, if you build an arena, you want it to be able to host basketball games, too, but city leaders in those days knew the NBA was the longest of long shots, the shrillest of pipe dreams. Then-Commissioner David Stern had made that abundantly clear. Leaders believed the NHL was the city’s only chance at pro sports, albeit a slim one, and they designed a shell of an arena they thought could be altered to suit a hockey franchise.

Instead, the NBA came calling.

Now, Oklahoma City needs to answer the call and build an NBA arena.

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OKC Thunder new arena should make fanbase rejoice


The OKC Thunder need a new arena. The Paycom Center opened on June 8th, 2002, with a construction cost of 89.2 million dollars and a seating capacity of 18,203. The idea behind the downtown arena in Oklahoma City was to lure in an NHL team eventually. The Hockey world never descended upon Bricktown, but the New Orleans Hornets were forced to relocate to OKC’s vacant arena due to Hurricane Katrina. The City’s support of the Hornets opened eyes around the NBA.

Eventually, this small market was able to claim a team of its own when the Seattle Supersonics sold their franchise to an Oklahoma-based ownership group led by Clay Bennett. The Sonics relocated to Oklahoma City, rebranding to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008.

The OKC Thunder need a new arena, and Mayor David Holt’s plan for the city should make fans, and taxpayers, rejoice.

On July 20th, Oklahoma City’s Mayor, David Holt, held his annual State of the City address. It was a year ago at this time that Holt soft launched the new arena idea. This time around, Holt came with a more concrete plan for taxpayers to wrap their heads around.

Read more.

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