Budget for Thunder arena upgrade clearing up

An oversight board charged with keeping renovations of the

Oklahoma City Thunder’s arena under budget now has a clearer

picture of a multimillion dollar shortfall in funding for the

project.

Members of the city board were told Tuesday that the final

budget for the renovations will be $112 million, or about $9

million less than anticipated when voters approved a one-penny

sales tax intended to upgrade the arena and lure the Thunder away

from Seattle.

The 15-month sales tax actually produced about $103.6 million in

funds for the renovation, with the final check arriving last week.

The city also can draw from an additional $8.4 million tax fund to

cover part of the shortfall, but the board has been working for

months to scale back the upgrades of the Ford Center and a new

Thunder practice facility to keep from overspending.

“We want to deliver the quality we promised but I think we have

to look at the money we’ve got here as an iron cap,” said City

Councilman Patrick Ryan, the board’s chairman. “There’s no more

money. Our source of funding has ended. I think we’d be on thin

ground if we could even go back to the City Council and ask for

additional money.”

Estimates now call for the city to spend about $91.7 million on

the Ford Center upgrades instead of just under $100 million, and

$14.4 million on the practice facility instead of $20 million.

The arena renovation will continue this summer with a series of

minor updates to concession stands, restrooms, a green room and the

offices of the arena’s management company. Some of those projects

could begin in the next 10 days.

Construction on a final phase that will feature a grand entrance

will begin during next season and require the closure of the arena

after the season is over. That phase, estimated to cost about $39

million, is scheduled for completion prior to the 2011-12 NBA

season.

The practice facility is expected to be finished by Sept.

10.