Court of Civil Appeals rules for Stadium Trust in Tulsa
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Saturday, January 19, 2013
1/19/13 at 7:12 AM
The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals has affirmed a lower court ruling upholding the creation of the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District.
"We are gratified both that the court of appeals affirmed the decision and, as we argued from the beginning, that the district itself would be a great boon to downtown - and it has really proven to be that," said Gerald Bender, Litigation Division manager for the city of Tulsa.
In 2011, Tulsa County Associate District Judge Dana Kuehn issued summary judgment in favor of the city and the Stadium Trust.
The judgment covered three separate lawsuits filed against the city and the Stadium Trust.
Among the claims of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuits - E&F Cox Family Trust and Bacon & Son, Inc. - are that they received no special benefit from the construction of ONEOK Field and that the City Council's proceeding that established the district was "irregular, by reason of misapplication of the law," and that the ordinance should be voided.
The Cox Trust's attorney, Kent Morlan, said he was not surprised by the ruling and that he would ask the Oklahoma Supreme Court to review the case. Should that request be denied, he said, he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review it.
"It isn't over," Morlan said. "There is a lot of fight left in this lawsuit. People who have had an injustice visited upon them don't give up in the United States very easily.
"I don't expect this case to be over for another year or two."
The Tulsa Stadium Improvement District was established to help fund the construction of ONEOK Field, the home of the city's Double-A baseball team, the Tulsa Drillers.
Property owners within the district, which includes all properties within the Inner Dispersal Loop, pay an annual assessment that also covers upkeep and maintenance of the district.
Established in 2008, the 30-year assessment includes two parts - a permanent 4.3 percent per square foot fee to help fund construction of the ballpark and a flexible rate for upkeep and maintenance of the area.
The initial assessment rate was set at 6.5 cents per square foot in 2008, with 2.2 cents per square foot designated for upkeep and maintenance. That portion of the assessment is currently 2.29 cents per square foot.
Stadium Trust officials have said previously that all 30 properties within the IDL that sold after January 2000 and again after the ball park was announced in 2008 saw an average annual increase in value of 14.5 percent.
In addition, 50 new investment projects totaling $710 million have been completed, are under construction, are planned or have been proposed within the IDL since the ballpark was announced.
Stadium Trust officials also have said resolution of the lawsuits could clear the way for the trust to refinance $25 million in bonds that were used to construct the new ballpark. A lower rate would cut more than seven years off the trust's payments and save property owners in the district $14 million in assessments because the assessments are used to finance the bonds.
Arlo DeKraai, chairman of the Tulsa Stadium Trust, said in a prepared statement that the ruling is further validated by the fact that 97.4 percent of the property owners are paying the assessment.
"The vast majority of the property owners clearly support ONEOK Field and the improvement district," DeKraai said.
Original Print Headline: Stadium Trust ruling affirmed on appeal
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
Judge Dana Kuehn: In 2011 she issued a summary judgment upholding the creation of the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District.