Thoughts on the Tulsa Landing / ballpark announcement

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The developer of Branson Landing has announced plans for a $500,000,000 retail and entertainment complex on the west bank of the Arkansas River at 21st Street. The plans would include a 20,000 to 22,000 seat ballpark intended for a Class AAA baseball team. The deal is being described as contingent on passage of next Tuesday's Tulsa County sales tax increase. A few thoughts:

(1) The real contingency is the acquisition of the concrete plant just north of 23rd Street. The rest of the land is already owned by the City of Tulsa. Until March of this year, as part of the groundwork they laid for The Channels, the Warren Foundation held an option to purchase that property for $37 million. With the concrete plant, the City could offer potential developers nearly three-quarters of a mile of riverfront, roughly a quarter of a mile deep -- roughly 100 acres. What the City already has is two non-contiguous parcels, each with about a quarter of a mile or riverfront.

(2) We don't need to raise the Tulsa County sales tax rate in order for the City to acquire the concrete plant. Tax increment financing, authorized by Oklahoma's Local Development Act (62 O. S. 850 - 869), would provide a sufficient revenue stream to pay for acquisition of the land. A city can establish a TIF district to capture incremental property and sales tax revenues to be used within that district for a number of purposes. Those purposes are listed in 62 O. S. 854, and the list includes land acquisition. A TIF provides financing for redevelopment of an area without increasing the tax burden.

(3) A west bank TIF should generate sufficient revenue to fund land acquisition. The TIF for the proposed $1,000 million River District development in Jenks involves capturing the full ad valorem increment and one cent of the sales tax increment. (The other two cents would go into Jenks' general fund.) The Jenks River District TIF is expected to capture $220 million. Tulsa's west bank needs less than 25% of that amount.

Tulsa Hills, an $80 million retail center at 71st and U. S. 75, is expected to generate an extra $1.1 million a year in property tax and an extra $5 million in city sales tax, which should quickly repay the $13.5 million in bonds for projects in the Tulsa Hills TIF.

A west bank TIF would be aided by the fact that most of the land is City-owned and therefore does not produce ad valorem taxes, so the baseline for the ad valorem increment would be the current taxes paid by the concrete plant. There are no retail outlets currently in the TIF, so the baseline for the sales tax increment would also be low.

(4) If we do vote to give Tulsa County $282 million in additional sales tax money, there's no guarantee they'll use it for west bank land acquisition. There are no specific promises for west bank land acquisition in the ballot resolution, the signed and notarized commitment by the County Commissioners for how the tax will be used. Here is the Tulsa County river tax ballot resolution language concerning the money that may be used for land acquisition:

Arkansas River corridor land acquisition, infrastructure, bridge improvements and site development, and Arkansas river studies for Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Sand Springs and Bixby.

There's no guarantee that any of the $57.4 million will be spent in Tulsa, much less on the west bank.

(5) 20,000 to 22,000 seats is an unlikely size for a minor league ballpark. The only AAA ballparks with that kind of capacity are Dunn Tire Park in Buffalo (opened in 1988, 20,050), Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha (opened in 1948, 22,000), and PGE Park in Portland (opened in 1956, 19,800). Buffalo built their stadium with expansion potential, in hopes of attracting a major league expansion club or relocation. Omaha's park is home to the College World Series. Portland's park was built in the '20s and served as a football stadium and greyhound track before being adapted for baseball in the '50s.

The newest AAA parks range in capacity from 10,000 to 15,000. At 10,995 seats, Tulsa's Drillers Stadium has more seating than 13 of the 30 AAA parks. All the talk of a new park for the Drillers has emphasized that a smaller capacity is desirable.

I suppose a 20,000 seat stadium could be used as an outdoor concert venue, but with that seating capacity, wouldn't it compete with the BOk Center for concerts?

(6) Getting a AAA team to Tulsa would be exceedingly difficult. Each major league club has exactly one AAA affiliate. In 1991, Tulsa was one of five finalist cities for a new AAA club to coincide with the expansion of the National League. The winners were Ottawa and Charlotte, and the Denver team, displaced by the Rockies, moved to New Orleans. In 1998, Memphis and Durham were selected for new AAA franchises.

It's not clear whether the intention is to have Drillers owner Chuck Lamson acquire a AAA franchise and move it here. If owners of another AAA franchise wanted to move to Tulsa, there are territorial issues that would have to be resolved.

(7) Has the City analyzed the possibility of a west bank TIF, and if so, where are the numbers? If they haven't, why not? This west bank concept has been on the table for almost a year. Shouldn't the TIF possibility have been fully explored before asking the voters to increase tax rates?

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2 Comments

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

There are so many possibilities. Its amazing to me to think that some people are so narrow minded to think that the current plan is the only plan.

I am so honestly disappointed in our leaders. We have options after options after options. And yet, somehow, the only way in some minds to do this thing is with a big leveraged donation, and a regressive sales tax increase. And then the plan only gets us half way there, if you use the INCOG master plan.

Everyone in Tulsa really wants the river development, and it can be done. We just can't afford to eat our sales tax base up on it. We need that money for roads and other infrastructure issues. And everyone knows it deep down.

Maybe Mr. Kaiser could pony up the other $300MM. I'd be willing to start a petition to rename the whole area after him. We could call it Rio Kaiser QuikTrip Land, or something.

When will the leaders in Tulsa ever, ever, ever work with its constituents and build a truly grassroots initiative that everyone can get behind? They always take it halfway and then go the other way. Is it the old money?

mad okie Author Profile Page said:

Jeff... it's like it always has been... their way or the highway... Vision 2025 for instance. If people really knew what it was going to be about, they wouldnt have voted for it. they dont do waht is best for Tulsa, only what they "think" is best for Tulsa. Another example is that Branson Landing wasnt getting any traction until the powers that be got them to endorse a tax

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 3, 2007 10:54 PM.

Say no to plutocracy was the previous entry in this blog.

The "living river": Can you dig it? is the next entry in this blog.

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