By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
May 17, 2013
To the naysayers who contend that professional sports teams and facilities don’t make significant contributions to local economic impact, look no further than Oklahoma City. When voters in 1993 approved a half-cent sales tax increase to build a new multipurpose arena, among several other projects, there never was a guarantee that a pro sports team was coming to town. Since the Thunder moved to Oklahoma City for the 2008 NBA season, the team has helped pump millions of dollars into the local economy. Research done by the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau found that the team this season generated $64 million for greater OKC. The Thunder also have a strong affect on civic pride.
The numbers should be promising for El Paso, Texas, which recently approved a similar set of projects that Oklahoma City passed 20 years ago. One of the first projects expected to be finished in El Paso is a downtown baseball stadium, which will house the city’s first affiliated Minor League Baseball team. When a new arena is built, it could host various NCAA Regional tournaments the city previously wouldn’t qualify for. If they can replicate Oklahoma City’s success, it’ll be hard to argue against the public funds.