Oklahoma City and its NBA franchise, the Thunder, will move forward with plans to build a $900 million arena and mixed-use development after city residents overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure Tuesday to fund the project.
Voters approved $850 million in public money for the Thunder’s new arena by a 71% to 29% margin, keeping the NBA’s Oklahoma Thunder in the city at least until 2050. The remaining $50 million will be contributed by Thunder owner Clay Bennett and other team investors.
Even though the Thunder’s Paycom Center lease expires in 2026, the 21-year-old arena will not be demolished, Kristy Yager, Oklahoma City’s director of public information, told Government Market News.
“There’s no NBA or concerts without the arena until the new one is built,” Yager said. “The city will try to lock down a site for the new arena within the next month or two.”
The Thunder’s new arena is expected to be operational by the 2029-2030 NBA season, according to a memo from City Manager Craig Freeman.
The contractor, design and architectural RFPs for the arena will be handled by Oklahoma City and will likely be issued sometime in 2024, the spokesperson said.
“As of right now there’s no architect or contractor,” Yager said.
Oklahoma City might consider previous vendors who worked on Paycom Center.
In 2022, Oklahoma City tapped sports architectural giant Populous to lead a multi-year $105 million renovation plan for the downtown arena.
When the Thunder moved to Oklahoma City, contracting firm Benham managed updates to the arena’s electrical, mechanical, plumbing, fire protection, communications and the arena’s future expandability.
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