Oklahoma City voters overwhelmingly approve $152m for Thunder arena and USL stadium, but maybe really just wanted parks

Oklahoma City voters overwhelmingly approved a 1% sales tax hike for the next eight years to fund $978 million worth of parks, social service centers, a new soccer stadium for the USL’s OKC Energy, and upgrades to the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s arena. The MAPS 4 plan — the fourth (duh) in a series of sales-tax hikes that have funded downtown development, school renovations, streetcars, and building the basketball arena in the first place — passed by a 72-28% margin.

As with any of these grab-bag proposals, it’s tough to judge from the results exactly what the public is supporting here: Do they think the city needs $140 million worth of new parks, or the Thunder need $115 million worth of arena renovations, or both? Do they think sales taxes — which are considered regressive because low-income residents pay a higher percentage of their income than high-income residents do — are the best way to do it, or is this just the only plan they’ve been presented with? We’ll never know, unless someone does way more detailed polling. (A guy on Facebook says residents should be allowed to vote on each element separately, but Mayor David Holt says that “something for everyone” is exactly how MAPS was designed, which you can see why it would be.)

Regardless, the latest iteration of MAPS means the public price tag of building and upgrading the Thunder arena now reaches a total of $325 million after its third installment of MAPS cash, and OKC Energy will be getting a new 10,000-seat $37 million stadium (expandable if the city wins an MLS expansion franchise, no doubt with MAPS 5 money) at taxpayer expense. Good thing private stadium funding is the trend, or we might be talking about some real money!


7 comments on “Oklahoma City voters overwhelmingly approve $152m for Thunder arena and USL stadium, but maybe really just wanted parks

  1. Neil, any word on how long a lease extension would be for the Thunder in exchange for the $115M?

    • Not that I’ve heard. One hopes that the city will negotiate a lease extension in exchange for releasing the MAPS 4 money, but other cities have been dumb enough to renovate first and then just hope team owners are so happy with the new wallpaper that they wouldn’t think of moving.

  2. Obviously, the 72 per cent majority have calculated that they are getting back more in value than they will be paying in their projected extra taxes. Those that thought they were getting shorted on their tax “contribution” or objected to subsidizing private businesses could only manage 28 %. Unfortunately that’s how direct democracy works.

    As for sales taxes being regressive, I can’t comment on Oklahoma, but in my state, food, housing, medical care and government services(public transit, postal) are exempt from sales taxes. Therefore, sales tax regressivity here is debatable.

    • I don’t know what state you live in, but given that most rich people outearn poor people by many orders of magnitude but don’t spend most of that money on taxable consumer goods (how many yachts can one person buy?), sales taxes are regressive everywhere:

      https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/whopays-ITEP-2018_statebystatepages.pdf

      As for the 72% thinking MAPS 4 was worth it, obviously. The problem is they had to vote the entire thing up or down, so if they were in favor of parks but not soccer stadiums, say, they had no way to express that.

      • ”The problem is they had to vote the entire thing up or down, so if they were in favor of parks but not soccer stadiums, say, they had no way to express that.“

        I’m not saying I agree with vote, but they could express it by voting no and asking the politicians to come up with a more sensible or split proposal. Happens all the time with school districts and basic services (especially in an era where the public is asked to make up defined benefit pension shortfalls that they never approved of in the first place).

  3. The lawyer who represented me in my Supreme Court case where mayor Holt changed the rules so I could not run, went back to the Supreme Court to stop this vote which is illegal under state law logrolling measures.

    While my case went very well, in fact we won so they said they’re not taking jurisdiction over the matter, this one not so well. A former councilman told me they did not even bother reading the arguments. They just said no. Lots of corruption here.

    David Holt worked for Dennis hastert and Jim in the office so you can imagine how much he really cares about social projects.