As a humanitarian organization, we believe the job of government is to provide necessary services vital to our community, and to act as a safety net for our most vulnerable citizens. It is not the job of government to enrich wealthy billionaires through taxpayer giveaways. We believe there are numerous reasons for Oklahoma City residents to veto this proposition:
While most arenas are funded either through a partnership between sports team owners and taxpayers or by the teams alone, Oklahoma City taxpayers will be on the hook for over $850 million, equal to $95% of the cost. Because this giveaway will replace MAPS, it will effectively kill the hugely successful community improvement program until at least 2035. It’s a bad deal for taxpayers.
There will be no money left to help our most vulnerable citizens, For years, we have advocated for substantial public resources to be spent to alleviate homelessness, and to provide adequate mental health facilities and drug and alcohol treatment for those in need, This has become a major crisis for Oklahoma City. We cannot continue to criminalize homelessness, poverty, mental health issues, and addiction by housing them in the deadliest jail in America.
There are over 1,400 people homeless in Oklahoma City, 100,000 others living below the poverty line, and nearly 45% of all residents in our city don’t earn enough to pay their bills each month. If this regressive tax passes, those who can least afford it will disproportionately foot the bill, paying an additional $5000 per family of four to subsidize billionaires.
Just last year, Mayor David Holt was singing the praises of Paycom Center, and voters committed to spending over $100 million in improvements to the existing arena through the MAPS 4 project. In 2022, Paycom Center was named one of the top 50 arenas in the world and number 38 in America by national data research group Pollstar. The venue hosted 13 of the top 50 grossing North American tours acts of 2022, including Elton John, The Who, Kevin Hart, and the Backstreet Boys. We don’t need a new arena.
Even if the proposal passes, there is no guarantee that the Thunder will stay. The city has no contract requiring them to remain in our city. Instead, we have a non-binding letter of intent, and there is no mention of the Thunder at all in the proposition itself.
All reputable studies have shown that the economic benefit professional sports teams have on a community is negligible at best, and in OKC the Thunder already receives millions in taxpayer subsidies every year. If anything, the Thunder siphons off entertainment dollars that would instead be spent in restaurants, art galleries, music venues, and local clubs. (Editor's note: A group of 20 economists from OU released a letter refuting the one heavily biased Chamber of Commerce funded economic study cited repeatedly by Mayor David Holt.)
Finally, the value of the team (purchased for $325 million in 2006) has increased to over $3 billion since the team was purchased and brought to Oklahoma, further enriching its billionaire owners. They can easily afford to bear at least a substantial share of the costs of an arena that will make them even richer.
People’s Council for Justice Reform believes that our government should benefit all of its residents instead of enriching a handful of greedy billionaires. We strongly urge voters to vote NO on Tuesday, December 12th.