With the MAPS 4 vote just two days away, I thought I’d throw out one more crazy article to hopefully convince the citizens of OKC to vote NO on MAPS 4.
In my last discussion on the topic of MAPS, I spent some time explaining how if one-fifth of all the funds collected through the limited-term, one-cent sales tax were devoted to environmental sustainability, then the MAPS initiative could theoretically pay for itself in the long run.
Of course, that didn’t really move the needle in the boomtown we call OKC, but it did manage to get some props from a sitting member of the Oklahoma City Council.
So who knows? Maybe this shit does matter.
I guess we’ll find out Tuesday, but until then, I’d like to share another crazy idea.
Before we can discuss the future of OKC, we need to take a look back at 2017 to get some context as to why the multi-purpose stadium proposed in MAPS 4 is such a bad idea.
I know this is a big ask, but I need you to reach back into your cluttered mind and try to recall the events of 2017 with me.
Yes, we were introduced to Salt Bae and we also learned that Taylor Swift almost certainly snuck out of her home via suitcase, but I need you to think even harder than that.
Remember how President Trump gave a tax cut to the ultra-wealthy?
Well for those who don’t, that’s ok. But just so you know, it happened in 2017, and much like the Turkish meats that are blessed by the sprinkling grace of Nusret Gökçe, most of Americans were left a little salty after that day.
“On average, the richest 1 percent received a $278,540 lifetime tax cut (lifetime spending increase) under TCJA — miles higher than the $21,704 going, on average, to those in the middle and the $4,975 going, on average, to those at the bottom.”
So, why is it that the ownership of Energy FC needs Oklahoma City’s citizens to give them their second political handout in two years? What happened to their Trump tax-cut money? Did the generous club owners trickle most of it down to their employees and donate the leftovers to charity?
I haven’t seen the Energy FC’s owners’ tax returns, so I can’t speak directly for them, but if the Energy owners are anything like the rest of the rich folks across this country, then, of course, they didn’t.
“Companies in the S&P 500 spent $806 billion on stock buybacks in 2018, blowing away the previous record of nearly $590 billion set in 2007.”
Back on the MAPS
So, now that we’re all caught up with 2017, let’s get back to this really bad multi-purpose stadium proposal in MAPS 4.
To summarize the MAPS presentation, the multi-purpose stadium would cost $32 million and would seat upwards of 8,000 people. The same presentation also mentions a growing Hispanic population in OKC as one of the pivotal reasons as to why this stadium makes sense for the future of OKC’s growing diversity. (This is important for later.)
At first glance, it all checks out. The city puts up $32 million and in 8–12 years we join the rest of the top-50 markets across the US in having an outdoor event space.
A Big Minor League Mistake.
There are four main reasons why this multi-purpose stadium is a huge mistake for OKC:
- Publicly-funded stadiums are historically poor investments for cities.
- Based on the current goals of the United Soccer League (USL), Energy FC will never qualify to become a real professional soccer team. (Lame.)
- A multi-purpose stadium requires having a disposable income to enjoy.
- Soccer and baseball have similar, seasonal schedules.
1. Poor Public Investment
Need a prime example for reason one? Try the other minor league stadium in town: Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
People will throw revenue and jobs numbers generated by the stadium at you with all their might, but simply put, the stands in that publicly-funded stadium are almost half-empty every game of the season. (And really, just use common sense here. When was the last time you attended a game in that ballpark without receiving the tickets for free? I rest my case.)
Another example of publicly-funded stadiums being a bad idea? The only major league arena in town: Chesapeake Energy Arena. It’s slated to receive 11% of the funds collected by MAPS 4. Yes, the same Chesapeake Energy Arena that was originally built with $87 million in funds collected from the first MAPS tax, is now needing another $110 million in the fourth installment. of MAPS. (One-time, sales taxes, am I right?)
So, after we designate one-fifth of MAPS 4 funds to stadium and arena initiatives in OKC, our city will be left with two minor league stadiums to halfway fill up instead of one.
2. Energy FC Won’t Be a Championship USL team.
For those unfamiliar with the professional soccer association, the United Soccer League is the organization that administrates professional-level soccer in the United States and additional countries.
Currently, the USL is organized into three divisions: the Championship League, League One, and League Two. The latter two leagues would essentially be the minor league system that feeds into the Championship League.
Based on announcements from the USL President, the multi-purpose stadium proposed in MAPS won’t meet the requirements necessary for FC Energy to become a Championship-tier USL team. For that to happen, the proposed stadium project would need to almost double in size and add another 7,000 seats.
As he told me when I asked him directly (around 58:05 in the link), Oklahoma City Mayor Holt will explain to you that this stadium could expand in the future. “It would be like the Ford Center,” said Holt, “it would be the stadium we build around.”
Although that is technically possible in OKC’s future, that statement simply doesn’t have much merit.
According to the USL, they would like to have forty Championship League teams picked before the United States hosts the Olympics in 2026, and there are only three slots left to fill.
Considering the multi-purpose stadium project is massive and the city probably won’t begin construction until 2020 at the earliest, it doesn’t look like major league soccer will be making a stop in OKC anytime soon for the next couple of decades.
3. Not Everyone Has Disposable Income
I pray that if you’ve made it this far that you followed up reading the headline above by muttering, “No shit!” because it was most certainly a “No shit!” statement.
However, it would seem that this point isn’t something the people who proposed the multi-purpose stadium project thought of, which is hilarious when you go back and look at their presentation for this project.
As was aforementioned in this article, this stadium project is being pitched as a means to connect the growing LatinX community in OKC. Truthfully, I’m all for reconnecting our self-segregated city, but make no mistake, this stadium is not being proposed to uplift the south side of OKC.
If the owners of Energy FC really want to uplift the LatinX community in OKC, they wouldn’t be proposing a stadium project that requires families to have enough disposable income to go inside. The same families that on average have a household net worth 650% lower than their white neighbors.
4. Minor League Mayhem
This last issue is an easy one to miss if you’re not a sports nerd, but fortunately, it’s not a hard concept to wrap your mind around.
Professional baseball is typically played from March/April to October/November.
Professional soccer is typically played from March to October/November.
So, since two minor league teams will be playing during the same seasonal timeframe in the same city, which team will come out victorious? Because we already know that Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark can barely fill up half its stadium’s seats on any given night.
So what’ll happen to ticket sales for the OKC Dodgers when a new minor league team is introduced to the OKC market?
I’ll let you do the math.
While you add up those ticket sales numbers, here are some additional numbers that really put into context just how bad the stadium idea is:
–– The multi-purpose stadium would be worth 7 times more than the team that’ll play in it.
–– 1 out of every 5 dollars in the MAPS proposal is going towards stadiums and arena improvements.
–– In a city that saw an 8% rise in people experiencing homelessness in 2019, MAPS 4 is set to designate more than 4 times the funds set aside for combatting homelessness on stadium and arena improvement projects. (Because, priorities.)
And a Final Word from Our Mayor
If those final numbers and my major four points still aren’t enough for you to change your mind, then I’ll let our mayor bring it all home.
You see, Mayor Holt didn’t just fluff up the multi-purpose stadium’s future status in OKC when he answered my question at the Oklahoma Watch public forum, he also flubbed up his argument for supporting MAPS 4 in the first place.
“Time and time again in conversations about MAPS 4 over the last year, this [mental health] was maybe the top issue.”
— Mayor Holt during an Oklahoma Watch public forum.
Mayor Holt and the City Council know mental health is a top issue among their constituents. “If not the top issue,” said Holt. So why did the Council approve a MAPS 4 budget that devotes less than 5% of collected MAPS 4 funds and zero operating funds to mental health crisis centers in OKC?
With the vote on MAPS 4 being rushed to a public vote, I guess we’ll never truly know, but what is inherently clear is that the proposed multi-purpose stadium project should be enough to make you question whether voting “YES” on December 10 is really showing your “love” for OKC.