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7 Reasons to Vote “NO” for the Thunder Arena Tax…

3:29 PM EST on December 4, 2023

Next Tuesday, less than 5% of Oklahoma City residents will likely go to the polls to determine whether the city will, once again, extend the 30-year-old 1-penny MAPS tax, this time to build a new $1-billion downtown arena for the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

As I mentioned earlier this year, I’m a strong “Yes” vote for the new arena.

This is primarily because I – a lifelong OKC resident who suffered from an incredibly boring existence in this town during the doldrums of the 1980s and 1990s – am a hardcore Oklahoma City Thunder fan. I go to lots of games and watch the team on Bally Sports when the app works. I’m also selfishly fine paying a penny of every dollar I spend in OKC city limits to build a new arena, and give them the extra revenue they’ll need to dip into the luxury tax come 2028 when they owe SGA, Chet and whoever else a whole lot of money. 

But that’s not the only reason I’m voting “Yes.” 

Although it’s hard to quantify and measure, I don’t think you can ignore the cultural and quality-of-life benefits attached to having an NBA team (and a nice arena for them to call home). The Thunder were the centerpiece of the famed and ballyhooed OKC renaissance, and it would be a shame to watch that conclude with their departure. 

Plus, having an NBA team gives OKC some national and international credibility.

Before the Thunder, OKC was lumped with the Omahas and Louisvilles and Little Rocks of the world. Now that we have a professional sports team, we’re lumped in with the Indianapolises, San Antonios and Sacramentos. That is far from the glitz and glamor of NY and LA but also far from the gloom and doom of Wichita and Grand Rapids. It’s hard to put a price tag on that type of stuff, but it has to have some value. 

Plus, I do think there’s some economic benefit to having a team. 

Sure, the Chamber oversells that point in their “Vote Yes” arena pitches, but earlier this year, I went to the OKC-Warriors "Tournament" game and sat next to four people who drove down from Kansas City just to watch it.

A few weeks later, a friend's employer – a Fortune 500 tech company with a strong OKC presence – flew about a dozen sales reps into town from larger markets like Dallas and Denver to entertain and meet with clients at the Thunder game. He had one extra ticket and gave it to me. Afterwards, we all went to the Hall of Spirits place at the First National where a VP bought everyone drinks.

I don’t think any of that happens if the only thing to do downtown is check out an OKC Yard Dawgs game. 

But those are just my thoughts. 

For all the good reasons there are to Vote Yes, I’m sure there are plenty to Vote No and, uhm, send our city back to the Dark Ages of Boredom.

As a result, I thought long and hard for seven reasons to Vote No for the arena. Here they are...

1. Josh Giddey stole your girlfriend…

You’re probably not old enough to vote anyway, but it’s still a pretty damn good excuse. 

2. Rumble gave you scabies…

That fur combined with all the filthy kids he hugs each game has to make Rumble a walking, not-talking, microscopic mite machine! I get itchy just looking at him! It’s also why I only take pictures with Thunder Girls when I hit up games.

3. You really really really like minor league sports…

Do you still long for the days when Steve Balboni hit the long balls out of 89ers Stadium? Did you buy a car from Smokin’ Joe Burton just to say you bought a car from Smokin' Joe Burton? Do you miss the promotional excitement of Al Eschbach playing Delores Camber in basketball? 

If so, vote “No” for the arena tax, because minor league sports will be making a big league comeback in Oklahoma City if the arena vote doesn’t pass. 

Also, this isn’t a knock on minor league sports fans. When I sold Blazers and Cavs programs as a child laborer in the early to mid-1990s, I was a huge minor league sports fan. Granted, I wasn’t as big as Mick Cornett, but I still liked my teams/employers.

4. You’re the Editor of The Oklahoman…

For about 30 years or so, The Oklahoman only provided enthusiastic, supportive, and very very very positive coverage of MAPS votes, making sure to report only Chamber-approved talking points and pro-arena propaganda, and while they were at it, silence all criticism. 

That’s changed with new Editor-In-Chief Ray Rivera. 

A transplant from Seattle, Ray’s now swung the pendulum in the opposite direction. While wearing soggy, rain-soaked, green and gold Shawn Kemp pajamas, he's made sure the paper's young, uniformed reporters amplify the voices of arena detractors and take an actual critical view of the proposal. 

Although the paper's opinion page has still endorsed the arena vote, he’s doing this because either A) it’s what a local newspaper should be doing or B) he’s still jealous and bitter that OKC stole the Sonics from Seattle and wants to get even. 

5. You're tired of public money disproportionately benefiting the same local plutocrats…

I understand and get this criticism. If this vote passes, it will greatly benefit Thunder owners and downtown property owners. My question is “So What?” That’s how the whole crony capitalist scheme works! I’m a fan of the team and really don’t care who gets rich from it. I just know it won’t be me. 

6. You hate sports, concerts and other fun things that help kill time during boring winter nights...

Outside of taking away their phones and locking them inside Slick Willies for three hours and forcing them to play $10-an-hour pool, I don’t think it’s possible to describe to today’s young Metro adults how truly boring and awful OKC was from about 1970 to 2000. I guess I could say it was a lot like today, only about 20 times worse. 

7. You really resonate with the Chat Pile song “Why?”

If you ever find yourself seriously wondering “Why do people have to live outside?” there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to “Vote No” because you think there are more important things than NBA basketball. You know, like homelessness and poverty.

If that’s the case, I’d like to point out that you’re absolutely right. That’s why I think we should organize a penny vote to address that issue, too. I’d happily vote Yes for a 1-penny sales tax to build homeless housing or fund food banks or whatever liberal social issue you want. Just don’t take away my Thunder.

Bonus: Mayor Holt won’t take a selfie with you…

This happened to my friend Connor at the Kings of Leon concert. Mayor McSelfie was schmoozing it with a crowd of rich people while Connor patiently waited to ask him for a selfie. When the schmoozing stopped, Holt turned and walked right past Connor, ignoring his selfie request. Since then, Connor has had a bitter hatred for Mayor McSelfie and vowed to never vote for any MAPS projects. I guess that means if this vote fails by one vote, blame Mayor McSelfie.

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Anyway, those are my seven or eight reasons. Please share yours in the comments. Also...

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