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Lawsuit over new Tulsa ballpark proceeds

Tulsa DrillersA lawsuit over the funding plan for ONEOK Field, the home of the Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League), is proceeding, as an opponent of the downtown-business tax is accusing the city of acting in bad faith in putting together the ballpark’s financing deal.

The funding plan for the ballpark includes a special assessment fee for downtown business owners, on the theory that they will benefit from a downtown ballpark. Marc Price, a downtown property owner, is contesting this plan in Tulsa County District Court, arguing that tax-increment financing would have been a more equitable financing mechanism.

Judging by news accounts of the trial, Price and his attorney are trying to go back in time and undo the creation of the special assessement fee. The biggest financial rationale for the ballpark creation was to raise downtown property values, and on that count the ballpark has been an early success: the values of properties selling since the ballpark plan was announced have risen by 77 percent. From the Tulsa World:

Price’s attorney, Kent Morlan, attempted several times to delve into areas outside the scope of the trial, such as how the money was spent and how the assessment was formulated, but Associate District Judge Dana Kuehn stopped him each time.

The only issue before the court is whether there was a “rational basis” for the City Council to think that creation of a special assessment district would produce a reasonable benefit for the properties within the district.

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