Court Denies Injunctive Relief Request Regarding Downtown Tulsa’s ONEOK Field

DANIEL C. CAMERON for GTR Newspapers

A Tulsa County Court hearing today resulted in a favorable ruling for the Tulsa Stadium Trust and property owners who support the assessment district for the downtown ballpark. Judge Dana Kuehn denied the request for preliminary injunctive relief that was filed by 21 downtown property owners who represent less than 2 percent of the assessment total. This follows a favorable ruling on Oct. 2 that approved a request to intervene by property owners who favor the assessment district and by the Tulsa Stadium Trust. The property owners who intervened in support of the project represent nearly 10 million square feet.

“We are very pleased with today’s ruling that denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction,” said Stan Lybarger, chairman of the Tulsa Stadium Trust. “From the depositions we took prior to this hearing, it is clear the litigation is based on a philosophical disagreement with the business improvement district concept, rather than the inability to pay due to financial issues. We are now ready to move forward with the trial, so we can prove the legality of the assessment district, which is supported by a significant majority of property owners in the district.

“The use of an assessment district to finance a public venue such as the Tulsa ballpark is clearly permissible under state statute, and cities throughout Oklahoma have been using improvement districts for a variety of public projects, including marketing, development, beautification and infrastructure,” Lybarger said. “Similar to the Center, ONEOK Field will add significant value for the Tulsa metropolitan area by creating new jobs, generating additional tax revenue and bringing more visitors to our great city.”

Annual bills for the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District were issued in July, and to date, more than 86 percent of the assessment fees have been paid, which is nearly the same rate of payment as collections from the prior assessment district. The plaintiffs represent only approximately $60,000, or 1.95 percent, of the total assessments. Property owners have 30 days to pay. After 60 days of delinquency, the city can file a lien on the property. With the 30-year practice, the city does not plan to file any liens until after Oct. 10, or to foreclose any liens for one year.

The ballpark construction is on schedule and within budget, with the Drillers’ first game in their new home set for April 8. The next construction milestone will be the installation of home plate.

Updated 10-11-2009

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