Oklahoma Approves Arena Tax , Fate for Sonics Dims

Steve GMarch 10th, 2008
By: Steve G

It's here.

March 4th, 2008.

The day that Sonics Nation has feared. Oklahomans have spoken and they want their NBA basketball. To quote David Stern, "There is no miracle here."

At least for Seattleites.

Oklahoma City voters passed a tax extension that would provide $121 million in renovations to the Ford Center that would be the key to luring an NBA franchise.

The passing of the measure came with an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote as reported by the local area newspaper, the Oklahoman. Many people predicted the measure to succeed in strong fashion as tons of signs bearing the "Big League City" moniker carpeted the city. Opponents of the measure tried their best advocate, but couldn't over come the massive ad campaign.

Sonics owner and local business magnate Clayton Bennett sent his thanks to the city council for all their efforts in promoting the campaign to a successful fruition.

Bennett commented, "We are grateful to the citizens of Oklahoma City for their continued commitment to excellence."

The plan would involve extending a one-penny sales tax that was set to expire on December 31st of this year. With the measure passed, the tax would now be extended 15 months to generate the money needed to expand the Ford Center and build a NBA-caliber practice facility.

The Ford Center was built in 2002 as multipurpose indoor sports arena and concert hall located in downtown Oklahoma City. The cost of construction was $89 million. The facility has a max capacity of 20,000 and is capable of holding basketball, hockey, and football games. During the 05-06 basketball season, the New Orleans Hornets were the primary tenants.

This comes as a strong blow to the Seattle Sonic fans as it opens the door to a strong possibility of team moving there. Arena issues have spurred the Sonics owner to relocate the team because its current home, Key Arena, has become a financial predicament. The Sonics applied for relocation to Oklahoma City in November of 2007 and are awaiting approval from the NBA Board of Governors in April.

The city of the Seattle is not allowing the Sonics to leave Seattle without a fight. The Sonics lease with Key Arena is not expiring until June of 2010. Clayton Bennett has offered a buyout of the remaining lease, but the city refuses to accept. As of now, the city is suing Bennett's ownership group in federal court in order to keep the team in the city.

There is still hope for Sonics fans as the newly passed measure requires an NBA team to be playing in Ford Center by 2009. If the federal courts rule in favor of the Sonics, the team would not be able to move to Oklahoma City and the tax extension would cease to exist after 2008.

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