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Monday, March 3, 2008
Voters to decide on $121 million proposal to lure NBA to Oklahoma City

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City voters will decide Tuesday on a $121 million plan aimed at luring an NBA team.

Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett's proposal would spend $97 million to upgrade the Ford Center and another $24.6 million to build an NBA practice facility in hopes of completing the city's courtship of the Seattle SuperSonics.

While Cornett has been promoting the improvements to the Ford Center as mandatory to show Oklahoma City's long-term commitment to the NBA, David Glover has been spearheading opposition to the plan that would extend a one-cent sales tax increase for another 15 months.

Cornett considers the improvements to the Ford Center necessary even if the SuperSonics, owned by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, don't end up relocating. Without them, Cornett says Oklahoma City will fall behind competitors for concerts, the Big 12 tournament and other events.

Bennett declined interview requests from The Associated Press and through a spokesman refused to say what would happen if the vote fails. The SuperSonics are in the middle of a court battle to break their lease in Seattle, and the NBA Board of Governors will vote in April on Bennett's request to relocate to Oklahoma City.

While reserving comment on the specific proposal in Oklahoma City, NBA spokesman Tim Frank said "the NBA will always support teams' and cities' efforts to enhance the experience for our fans."

The cost of adding restaurants, clubs, suites and other amenities to the Ford Center -- which hosted the New Orleans Hornets for two years following Hurricane Katrina -- falls about in the middle of the cost fronted by new NBA cities when the past two franchises relocated.