Tuesday's vote could be the biggest moment in Oklahoma City sports history — a referendum on whether the city wants an NBA franchise, many city leaders say. City voters will go to the polls to decide whether to extend a 1-cent sales tax to pay for about $121 million in improvements to the Ford Center and a new NBA practice facility. NBA Commissioner David Stern said recently the SuperSonics leaving Seattle is an "inevitability.” The Sonics are leaving Seattle because that city refuses to publicly fund a new arena. NBA owners are scheduled to vote in April on an application by the SuperSonics to relocate to Oklahoma City. The application's approval largely depends on the outcome of Oklahoma City's vote on Ford Center improvements.
If voters decide yes ...All signs point to Oklahoma City getting its own NBA franchise. The proposal will continue the 1-cent sales tax that is currently paying for MAPS for Kids, which is set to expire midnight Dec. 31. The Ford Center tax would take effect Jan. 1. The tax would last 15 months and would pay for about $100 million in improvements to the Ford Center and a new $20 million NBA practice facility. Improvements would be made at every level of the Ford Center. The arena would expand, with extra space for a warm-up basketball court. NBA offices and locker rooms also would be built along with a variety of suites and skyboxes. A family fun zone would be added in the upper level of the arena. Rest rooms would be renovated along with the floors and walls of the building, which would get a more decorative look. A new grand entrance would be built on the south side of the building. In addition to the NBA, city officials said the improvements would make the Ford Center more competitive when bidding for the Big 12 basketball tournament, major concerts and other events. If the proposal is approved but for some reason the NBA decides not to relocate a team to Oklahoma City, the Ford Center improvements would go ahead as planned, though a practice facility wouldn't be built. The sales tax would be shortened from 15 months to 12 months.
If voters decide no ...Mayor Mick Cornett has said the city will not get an NBA team if the measure fails. Cornett said there is no plan B for funding Ford Center improvements, and convincing NBA owners to allow a relocation to Oklahoma City would be impossible without voter support of arena improvements. The Sonics likely will leave Seattle regardless of Oklahoma City's vote, but many observers believe other cities with new arenas such as Kansas City or Louisville would be more likely destinations if the Oklahoma City proposal fails. The MAPS for Kids sales tax expires Dec. 31. Unless voters OK a new tax measure, the sales tax rate would go down by 1 cent starting Jan. 1. City officials worry a failed proposal would endanger momentum the city has gained from MAPS and MAPS for Kids. Voter approval for those measures is credited with getting the city into NBA discussions in the first place. Oklahoma City could still bid for college basketball tournaments and other events, but the Ford Center would have a hard time competing with newer arenas in Dallas, Kansas City and Tulsa, among other places.
Voting informationTuesday's election is open to all registered voters in Oklahoma City. That includes registered voters who may have a mailing address in another city but still live within the geographical boundaries of Oklahoma City. City officials said you can use your water bill to determine if you're within the city's geographical boundaries. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Early voting also is available at the Oklahoma County Election Board, 4201 Lincoln Blvd., between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday.