Budget constraints are causing the city to re-think the last phase of Ford Center renovations funded by a 1-cent sales tax approved in 2008. The city council voted Tuesday to pay architects Sink and Combs Dethlefts $100,000 to make changes to the designs for the project, including eliminating a $6 million warm-up court and making other cosmetic changes.
The 15-month sales tax that began Jan. 1, 2009, was estimated to bring in $121 million. The economic downturn caused sales tax collections to fall, special projects manager Tom Anderson said. The tax, which ends March 31, is now expected to bring in $102 million. The city is supplementing that amount with $9 million in use taxes that accompanied the Ford Center sales tax. The arena cost $89 million when it was built and opened in 2002. The warm-up court was planned both as a place for players to practice and for receptions and other activities during special events. "It would have been nice to have if the sales tax collections had come in as projected,” Anderson said. "But it was a no-brainer to give up compared to some of the other fan amenities.” Anderson said the changes also will allow for some "bells and whistles” the team and city wanted after the original plans were approved. In particular, a big screen will now be included on the Ford Center’s exterior. The changes are mostly in areas fans won’t notice, Anderson said. A special entrance and changing area for arena employees is being eliminated and office space for Thunder staff is being redesigned. "The object is to redesign the Ford Center so that the changes will be as seamless as possible,” Anderson said.