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OKC voters pass sales-tax extension



Oklahoma City voters approved a sales-tax extension Tuesday which may guarantee the  National Basketball Association  comes to Oklahoma City. The final vote count when all 271 precincts reported was 44,849 yes votes, 62 percent, to 27,564 voting against the measure.

The approval of the sales tax means one cent of retail sales in Oklahoma City will go towards renovating the Ford Center which opened in 2002. The current sales tax is part of the MAPS for Kids project which voters approved in 2001. Tuesday's approval will extend the sales tax for at least another 12 months, beginning on Jan. 1, 2009.

The city expects the sales tax to generate more than $100 million.

If the NBA approves the owners' application to relocate the team to Oklahoma City, the sales tax would be extended another three months. That would generate another  $20 million to be used to build an  indoor practice facility for the basketball team.

NBA team owners and league officials will meet next month to vote on moving a team in Seattle to Oklahoma City.

The city's opportunity for a team started in 2006 when local businessman Clay Bennett and a group of investors purchased the Seattle SuperSonics for $350 million. The new owners spent a year trying to convince Seattle and Washington state officials to build a new arena. When no deal was made, Bennett applied to the NBA to move the team.

Opponents of the vote argued citizens should not have to pay for the Ford Center improvements to bring an NBA team. They contend Bennett and the ownership group should have paid for the improvements themselves. - Scott Cooper


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