Oklahoma City voters approve sales tax extension for new arena


A sales tax extension to fund a replacement professional sports and concert arena costing at least $900 million won overwhelming approval from Oklahoma City voters Tuesday.

The continuation of a Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS 4) one-cent sales tax for six years beyond its April 1, 2028 expiration date passed with 71% of the vote amid low turnout, according to unofficial election results, which tallied 41,129 votes in favor.

The arena will replace the city-owned Paycom Center, which has been home to the National Basketball Association’s Thunder since 2008.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt signs a letter of intent with the NBA’s Thunder in September for a replacement arena. After this week’s vote, he said: “Tonight, we told the nation, we told the world, that Oklahoma City is and shall remain a Big League City.”

Oklahoma City Mayor’s Office

“Tonight, we told the nation, we told the world, that Oklahoma City is and shall remain a Big League City,” Mayor David Holt said in a statement, referring to the team’s 25-year commitment to stay in the city once the new arena opens no later than the start of the 2029-2030 basketball season.

The financing plan will tap $70 million in MAPS 4 funding earmarked for the existing arena and the Thunder’s $50 million contribution to cover upfront costs. 

Oklahoma City Chief Financial Officer M. Brent Bryant has said financing through tax anticipation notes structured like a line of credit would bridge the gap until the arena facility sales tax collections begin in 2028. 

The notes would be privately placed with a bank pursuant to a request for proposals that could be issued in 2026. Bryant in late September said the issuance of eight- or nine-year bonds was rejected due to interest costs. He did not immediately return a request for comment after this week’s election.

MAPS financing began in 1993 with voter approval of a temporary one-cent sales tax. City voters passed the debt-free, pay-as-you-go funding method in subsequent years, most recently MAPS 4 in 2019 to raise a projected $1.1 billion over eight years starting in 2020. Funding was allocated to 16 projects, including $116 million for the Paycom Center. 

Holt has been pushing hard for the project, making it the main theme of his State of the City address in July. After the city council this fall placed the tax extension on the ballot, his posts on the X platform warned that a “no” vote would risk losing the team.

The Thunder’s commitment to pay only $50 million for an arena that could end up costing more than $900 million was the main argument put forth by opposition group Buy Your Own Arena, which argued the city has other more pressing priorities to fund with tax dollars.

 ”This is the worst NBA arena deal in more than a decade,” the group said on its website. “Increasingly, the trend is for billionaire sports franchise owners, who keep all the profits, equity and most of the revenue from these buildings, to build and pay for more and more of their own arenas.”

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