Skip to Content
Politics

Big League City?

10:01 AM EST on February 29, 2008

In the minutes of grueling research I do for this website, I ran across the YouTube video you can watch above. I have no idea who had the access to, or had the idea to upload a forty-year old commercial related to a local bond issue. That said, thank you "Silentsensei."

For one, I learned that people who voted before my parents were eligible to cast ballots changed the course of this city. In Yessing 'em all, our forefathers (and I guess mothers since this was post-suffrage) made it where I can partake in drinking water. I like water. They improved the sewer systems. I like not smelling feces. It also created the Northwest Expressway and expanded many major roads of this city from two to four lanes. I like not sitting in traffic. After seeing this commercial, I wondered what our fair city would look like if the residents of that time had No'ed 'em all....probably a bit like the Oklahoma City portrayed in Saving Grace.

Oklahoma City's next chance to leap forward comes March 4th. This campaign slogan is not as catchy or instructive as yes 'em all, but Big League City does have some merit. As my public service to you, I will rattle off the talking points.

  • Approving the measure will put Oklahoma City in the competitive advantage to attracting an NBA franchise.

I saw a guy on the news one night saying that OKC is at the top of the relocation list and arguing that we can't be "topper." Keep in mind that just because the Sonics have already requested a move to our fair town, it is not guaranteed the request will be approved by the league's relocation committee. Nothing says the NBA has to move teams. The reason the NBA is even considering the leave a world renowned city like Seattle is that the city has been deemed hostile in any efforts to make the team profitable. (For the record, Sonics owner Aubrey McClendon has suggested their ownership would consider "breaking even" in Oklahoma City as a bonus--the rest of the league owners, who participate in revenue sharing probably expect more.) Voting down this measure could be seen as transferring the team from one bad environment to another.

  • Attracting an NBA team will be a boon to the city's economy

Mayor Mick's office estimates that the two partial season's that this city hosted the Hornets boosted the economy to the tune of $130 million. Considering that this tax will raise around $120MM and the Sonics would be playing full seasons, that would be an awfully quick payoff. Of course, that does not consider that the work for the Ford Center will also be done locally, so the money stays in town.

  • Being the home to an NBA franchise would boost the image of the city, making it more attractive to potential employers

Here are two lists of cities, which list do you think most people include Oklahoma City on right now?

List 1 (Major League Cities):
New York City, NY
Los Angeles, CA
Miami, FL

List 2 (Minor League Cities):
Des Moines, IA
Boise, ID
Yakima, WA

I would have to say that right now, most people would put OKC on list two. Maybe it is a stretch to say that hosting an NBA franchise would rocket us up to List 1, but it would get us associated with them. Maybe we would still have to deal with ribbing like Salt Lake City, Sacramento, or even Green Bay--and yes, we are lower on the consciousness of the rest of the world than Green Bay--do as small major league cities, but at least then we are in the game. Seeing our city on the crawl of ESPN (something we can't even get on CNN when they scroll the weather of major cities) is free advertising that makes it much easier for Mayor Mick to get prospective businesses on the line.

  • The Ford Center would become a state of the art facility

I have it on high authority that the Ford Center's original construction was done on the cheap. At the time, it made sense. It would have been very difficult to justify adding amenities to a facility without an anchor tenant. No sports franchise (outside of the Blazers) had given the city any reason to believe we were a consideration for expansion or relocation. That has changed, obviously. Converting the Ford from a cookie cutter building to a world class arena makes it that much more attractive for larger conventions, tournaments (such as for the Big XII), and concert promoters.

  • Voting "Yes" will not raise taxes

Sure some people, like Tony, will suggest that forgoing a tax cut is the same as a tax increase. I call those people nitpickers. Others will say that this money should go toward better things, like infrastructure. To them I say, it will. Hear me out. First of all, there is a halo effect that relates to getting a major sporting franchise. There will be the direct jobs it creates, then the jobs created due to related businesses (apparel sales, improved restaurant traffic, et cetera), and benefits from the money that will be flowing. That improves tax collection which reduces the necessity of hitting up the citizens for fund raising.

Plus, most states that host professional athletics institute a tax geared specifically toward the athletes who come through town. I see no reason why Oklahoma would not follow that trend. So, say they hit the players with a minimal 1% tax on the wages they earn while playing in the Ford Center. For a player like Shaquille O'Neal, who would come through town two to three times a year, earning $244,000 per game that comes out to almost $7,500 of revenue from one player. Running some very rudimentary calculations based on the average payrolls, I think such a tax would gross approximately $1.4MM a year in revenue for the city. That does not even consider if their earnings would require them to file a state tax return where they would be taxed at an even higher rate. Getting that kind of coin year after year in perpetuity builds a lot of roads and bridges.

For those of you still unconvinced, I have come up with a list of the things you could spend the money you will save should the temporary replacement tax fail:

1.  NOTHING

I contemplated making a list of things like:  "Supersizing your value meal every tenth visit to McDonalds", but the truth is above.  If you are really concerned about paying this tax, do what Patrick does and do all your shopping in Warr Acres, or be like Tony and purchase everything--including toilet paper--on eBay.  Because...

You don't want to live in a two lane town in a four lane world. Do you?

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter