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Oklahoma City Council approves development agreement for new Thunder basketball arena

Ryan LaCroix

The Oklahoma City Council approved a development agreement for the new downtown Thunder arena with a 7-2 vote Tuesday.

The arena will be built in the spot that used to house the Cox Convention Center and is the current home of Prairie Surf Studios.

In December, OKC voters approved funding for the new $900 million arena that will keep the Thunder in town through 2050.

Ward 6 council member JoBeth Hamon and Ward 7 council member Nikki Nice voted against the proposal.

Nice voiced her concern over the proposed timeline of the arena and the worry that to complete construction on the arena, other city projects will be neglected.

The agreement maintains the completion date of 2029 as outlined in the letter of intent but provides a path to a target completion date of June 2028, with a contractual obligation to open the new arena by June 2030.

Ward 2 council member James Cooper voiced his desire to use the community benefits package to provide jobs in construction to Oklahoma City residents.

In September, the council approved a community benefits package, proposed by Cooper, to set a higher base pay for arena workers and promote hiring from some of the city’s lower-income areas for arena jobs.

“This is going to be an opportunity to bring different workforce intermediaries together in our city, to figure out how we can work together to better connect these people to skills and employment,” Cooper said.

The agreement is made between Oklahoma City and PBC Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Oklahoma City Blue.

Any surplus revenue from the one-cent special sales tax after the arena's construction and repayment of financing costs will be allocated to capital improvements and maintenance of the new arena.

As part of the agreement, the Thunder will remain in Oklahoma City for at least 25 years after the arena opens.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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