Oklahoma City voters have an opportunity Tuesday to take a bold and visionary step, seizing on the momentum of our capital city. A proposed 12-month extension of the penny sales tax would pay for a host of improvements to the Ford Center — renovations that are critical if Oklahoma City has any hope of landing an NBA franchise. This city and state are more than ready for such a prospect. When the New Orleans Hornets temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina, people throughout the region responded with overwhelming enthusiasm. The team's presence spurred tremendous economic activity and led to the creation of hundreds of jobs. If approved by voters, the Ford Center renovations would be astounding. Improvements include a number of amenities, such as restaurants, clubs, concession areas, rooftop gardens and a family fun zone. The 12-month sales tax extension would include three more months if Oklahoma City has a signed lease with an NBA team. The additional months would enable construction of an NBA practice facility. Both facilities would be owned by the city, debt free, and an NBA team or other eventual occupants would make lease payments to the city. The impact of these improvements extends well beyond the chance of seeing your favorite basketball stars up close. Joining the ranks of only 28 other American cities with an NBA team sends a clear and powerful message to the nation. It elevates Oklahoma City to a rarified status of cities boasting an aura of energy, style and creativity. It is important to consider Tuesday's vote in the larger context of how it builds on past achievements. Momentum is tough to create and even tougher to maintain. You can try nudging it along with attention and strategic investment, but ultimately momentum either materializes or it doesn't. Fortunately, Oklahoma City is reaping the dividends of an electrifying momentum that began with MAPS in 1993. That landmark initiative spurred a downtown renaissance that shows no sign of slowing. Building state-of-the-art facilities such as the Ford Center, AT&T Bricktown Ballpark and Bricktown Canal — as well as development of the Oklahoma River — inspired further investment, growth and jobs. Bricktown emerged as a dynamic entertainment district and bona fide tourist destination. The shining jewel that is downtown Oklahoma City has economic, cultural and perceptual implications felt throughout the state, contributing to the ascendancy of Oklahoma as we enter our second century of statehood. Let's ensure that momentum continues. Before us is a rare opportunity, a chance for Oklahoma City to become — quite literally — a big league city. We have witnessed a remarkable transformation over the past two decades, but it behooves us to heed the advice of Will Rogers: "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.” We have incredible momentum. The task at hand, as Will Rogers suggested, is to build on that momentum. If we take advantage of this opportunity, our city and state will flourish. Please vote yes on Tuesday.
Gov. Brad Henry