Pictured: Charlie Meadows
Are the Oklahoma Slicksters at it Again Vote No on New Arena
Some 18 years ago the ownership of the Seattle Sonics wanted to sell their NBA team. There were five prominent businessmen in OKC that wanted to own an NBA team. Of course the Sonics wanted to see the team stay in the Seattle area. Keeping that in mind, these OKC Slicksters offered to buy and leave the team in Seattle on one condition! Within a certain amount of time, the City of Seattle or the State of Washington or a combination of both, must have started the process of building a new arena at a cost of at least $550 million dollars.
OKC had an arena which was around six years old and cost about $89 million to build. A new arena in Seattle could not be built for $89 million, but perhaps $350 to $400 million. The City of Seattle, nor the State of Washington, was not about to spend the excessive $550 million to satisfy the OKC Slicksters target. Thus, when the time period was up, the Slicksters announced they were going to move the team, much to the anguish of the citizens of Seattle.
Now the new owners could have moved the team to any city they wanted, but they announced they would move it to OKC – that is if the incentives were attractive enough. I believe the owners dictated to then Mayor Mick Cornett and the State of Oklahoma the massive perks they wanted. Some of which included the following:
- Over a hundred million in upgrades to the then Ford Arena, to bring it up to NBA standards.
- Eighteen million to build a new practice facility. Of course the Slicksters were going to lease the practice facility so the citizens of OKC could be paid back for their investment. Lets see, at $100,000 per year it would only take 180 years to pay the city back for the taxpayers investment, that is at zero percent interest. Can you say sweetheart deal?
- Corporate offices in the upgraded Arena and Class A office space, rent free, until their corporate offices were completed.
- Then from the State of Oklahoma, they wanted in on the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Act (OQJA).
Let me explain what the OQJA that would mean to the owners. When the OQJA was first enacted many years ago, Oklahoma’s State Income Tax topped out at 7%. When it became law, the state was to rebate to the business owners 5% of the wages of all employees of a new business locating in Oklahoma, or the same for the new employees that were to be hired for a business expansion.
This kickback was for 10 years, provided the company paid a certain wage and provided health insurance for the employees. Thus the State would keep 2% of the income taxes for the new hires and rebate back 5 percent to the owners. But, by the time the Slicksters wanted in on that bundle of money, the state income tax had been reduced to 5 percent. That was just not going to be enough for the Slicksters.
Therefore, they demanded a 5.5 percent rebate from the state based on the paychecks of every player and employee with the Thunder. That meant the State got nothing in income taxes from the millionaire players and staff, but rather the would be subsiding the team to the tune of 1/2 of one percent (basically a welfare check to the owners). Oh, and one more thing, 10 years was not long enough for the Slicksters. They wanted the payments coming in for 15 years.
Leadership in both the Oklahoma House and Oklahoma Senate sponsored the bill – which meant to members that this was supposed to pass. It passed first in the House on a close vote. Of course the Slicksters were suggesting they might locate the team in another city if they didn’t get all the incentives they were wanting. During the debate on the floor, perhaps the best political line of the year came from State Representative Terrill, when he urged his fellow members to vote NO, saying “this is like going fishing when the fish is already in the boat.” It was also a close vote in the Senate.
So you say, what does that have to do with the upcoming sales tax vote to spend $900 plus million to build a new arena? I mean, after all the owners are so generous they are willing to spend $50 million of their hard earned cash to help build the new arena. What more could everyone who pays taxes in OKC want from the owners? Furthermore, that $50 million would be coming out of the owners big fat checking accounts, especially since the 15 years of the OQJA had finally come to an end and would no longer be stuffing their pockets full of millions of dollars. It has been reported that has already topped $75 million in rebates.
That would be true, except for a bill passed in the first Special Session of the Oklahoma Legislature earlier this year. It just so happened that SB 13X, sponsored by Roger Thompson in the Senate and Kevin Wallace in the House, both powerful Budget Chairmen in their respective chambers, somehow got the OQJA program extended for another 15 years for the OKC Thunder. That means the kickbacks will continue to enrich the Millionaire and Billionaire owners for another 15 years.
I don’t know what the total payroll for the Thunder happens to be when you total up all the player’s salaries, along with all the coaches and administration staff, but it will be in the millions over the next 15 years. None of this is necessary as the Okie Slicksters that purchased the team from Seattle, along with some of the new owners, did NOT purchase this team to have it located in some other city.
Ideally the owners should pay for the entire arena themselves. That would incentivise them to have as many other events during the 300 or so days each year the Thunder is not using the arena. If properly managed, the arena could produce additional revenue for the owners. This would also get the ownership of the Arena out of the hands of the City and into the private sector where it should be.
When the Thunder arrived I was not much of a basketball fan, especially beyond the college level. However, the more I paid attention, the more of a fan I became. That is, until a few things began to happen which eventually turned me off to the Thunder, and eventually all NBA teams.
One of the things I liked was the OKC Thunder allowed prayer before the games, some teams do not. However, some local pastors were asked to lead in prayer at the games, as long as they did not use the name of Jesus Christ in their prayers. I no longer saw watered downed prayers as a positive. Then, when I found out the Thunder mascot Rumble marched in OKC Gay Pride Parade along with General Manager Sam Presti, I dropped my interest in the team.
Of course when they got on board with the Marxist, Black Lives Matter movement, I saw the team as a cultural negative for OKC. Perhaps even worse, it appears the NBA is willing to turn a blind eye to all the human rights atrocities that go on in Communist China. Because of the growing popularity for basketball in China, there are untold millions to be made in that market.
I would suggest is bad for America. The NBA has become a part of the bread and circuses that keep the population content and dazed from making major changes which might prevent the decline of America – as excessive sports lulls people to sleep from their important civic duties.
If you are a property owner anywhere near downtown OKC, the value of your property has certainly gone up dramatically with the arrival of the Thunder. The team has also drawn a lot of young people to live in or near downtown OKC, which has certainly made the City far more liberal than in the past. But of course the question is, how to vote on the Sales Tax on the December 12, 2023 ballot? I say NO, let the owners build it themselves, or at least with a much larger share from the themselves.
Charlie Meadows is the founder and former president of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC ). He recently won a Special Election becoming County Commissioner for District 2 in Logan County. He may be contacted at: email@example.com