The next step in that regard is a potential March 4, 2008 vote on a Ford Center Arena improvement plan. Here are all the details and frequently asked questions on the proposal and the vote.
What possible improvements and upgrades to the Ford Center are included in the plan? - The majority of the funds will go to adding "fan-friendly" amenities such as aesthetic changes to plain floors and walls, restroom upgrades and the additions of restaurants, concession areas and new skybox-style suites in the upper level. OKC's special projects manager Tom Anderson also mentioned new "roof gardens" where visitors can go outside, have a drink and look at the skyline.
In addition, a new entrance will be added on the southwest side of the arena that will give the building a bit more character. Changes to benefit a potential NBA team include new locker rooms, a warm-up court and an off-site practice facility.
Why are those so important? The Ford Center was good enough for the Hornets - Well, the Hornets were a team displaced by a natural disaster and needed only an adequate location in which to play. As it stands, the 5-year-old Ford Center is somewhere in the middle of the pack of NBA arenas, certainly not inadequate but not up to the standards of a state-of-the-art facility a relocating team might obtain in another city either.
An obvious supporter of the proposed projects, Mayor Mick Cornett has said the improvements would place the Ford Center "among the top arenas in the country."
What about the financials? How much is this going to cost us? - The plan calls for $121 million in overall improvements, to be funded by a 15-month penny sales tax. This won't be an increase, though, but rather a continuation of the current penny sales tax from MAPS for Kids, set to expire on December 31, 2008.
So is this the MAPS 3 I've heard about? - No. Mayor Mick Cornett solicited opinions for possible MAPS 3 projects in early 2007, and support was overwhelming. Those who voted in the exploratory polls, though, favored public transit improvements by a significant margin. The passing of a recent bond issue, with a number of road improvements, certainly helps in that regard. But any MAPS 3 projects would presumably have to wait until 2009 if the Ford Center improvements package is passed.
Does this guarantee that OKC will get an NBA team? - Not at all. The situation with the Sonics is still very much up in the air given all the legal wrangling in Seattle. And the Hornets haven't yet received the support owner George Shinn hoped for upon their return to New Orleans. Ford Center improvements would be an optimistic move for OKC as well as one to increase the city's attractiveness to the NBA. In fact, Mayor Mick Cornett asserts that Oklahoma City likely won't get an NBA team if voters don't approve this plan. I'll defer to Cornett's expertise and knowledge in that area, but it is widely believed Oklahoma City has been on the top of the NBA's list, even before this plan was announced.
So tell me about the vote. - If approved by the city council on Wednesday, January 2nd as expected, the measure will go before voters on March 4, 2008. Make sure you're registered to vote in Oklahoma City, and you can contact the Oklahoma County Election Board at (405) 713-1515 for your polling location if you don't know.
Your ThoughtsNow that you've read all about the proposal, what are your thoughts? Vote below and discuss the plan on the OKC forum.
POLL: Do you support the March 4, 2008 initiative for Ford Center arena improvements?
The ResultOn March 4, 2008, Oklahoma City voters went to the polls and decided the issue once and for all. By a margin of 62 percent to 38, the measure passed.
In total, nearly 45,000 voted. That marked a turnout of about 30 percent, double what OKC usually sees for a a city election, according to County Election Board officials. It was also higher than the turnout of the 2001 MAPS for Kids vote.
Current StatusThe first of the arena renovations will begin in June of 2008, and the entire project will not be completed until 2010. The improvements will be completed in three stages.
Interior renovations such as suite construction and improved bathrooms are stage one. Stage two includes the construction of a new southwest grand entrance. And the renovations will conclude with the perhaps the biggest change, a southeast expansion.