OKC Scores In Sonics Battle

Oklahoma City has moved a step further in its efforts to entice an NBA franchise to settle there.

More than 61 percent of voters in the city recently approved the extension of a 1-cent sales tax that will carry on through June 2010 and raise as much as $121 million, according to the Oklahoman.

While $20 million of that money is earmarked for a new NBA practice facility, the rest is set to spruce up the 5-year-old, 19,711-capacity Ford Center.

Improvements would include NBA locker rooms and offices, decorative floors and walls, new bathrooms and concession areas, restaurants and suites, the paper said.

The city is hoping the sales tax and improvements will win it the favor of the Seattle SuperSonics. The team has applied to move to the city this fall and is waiting for NBA owners to vote on the application in April.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett told the paper the win "sets the stage for something bigger. We’ve done what we need to do to continue to impress the NBA relocation committee."

However, it isn’t likely the SuperSonics will get out of Seattle quite so easily. Despite a vote in 2006 that restricted tax subsidized upgrades to the team’s KeyArena home, the team’s lease at the venue extends through 2010, and the city has filed suit to make sure the team honors that lease.

Oklahoma City Chamber President Roy Williams told the Seattle Times it’s up to the team to pick the city that will best meet its needs.

"The Sonics are in Seattle, and the Sonics can stay in Seattle," Williams said. "That’s in the hands of Seattle. Seattle can keep the team if they’re willing to do what it takes to pay for it. It’s not ours to win. It’s Seattle’s to lose."