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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Thunder Join Arena Arms Race With $900M Proposal

  • Team and city officials have agreed on plans for a new downtown arena.
  • Mostly public funds would be used to pay for the $900 million project.
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder are the latest pro sports team targeting a new venue with their plans for a project that will cost nearly $1 billion.

Team and city officials have agreed on a proposal to build a $900 million arena downtown that would open in 2029 and be the Thunder’s home for at least the next 25 years. 

The team’s current lease at Paycom Center expires in 2026 — an issue contributing to mounting uncertainty over the future of the franchise. Paycom Center first opened in 2002 and seats 18,000 fans.

To greenlight the proposal — which had been lagging and won’t be formally approved until December — Oklahoma City has committed to publicly fund the majority of the arena, in addition to $50 million from Thunder owner Clay Bennett and other team investors.

“We had a choice to raise taxes or delay the project until 2034,” Oklahoma City mayor David Holt said. “We wouldn’t have an NBA team if we did that.” 

Cities like Las Vegas and Seattle are unabashedly vying for NBA teams as the league considers expansion or current franchises potentially seek new homes.

Will Philadelphia Follow Suit?

The Philadelphia 76ers are another NBA team hoping to build a new $1.3 billion downtown arena by 2031 — a situation that has caused strife with their current arena’s landlord. The 76ers play at Wells Fargo Center, which is owned by Comcast Spectacor, in South Philly.

“The trend of downtown arenas continues,” David Adelman, who chairs 76 Devco, posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), referring to the news of the Thunder’s arena plans.

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