Some Downtown Tulsa Property Owners Reaping Cost, Not Benefits Of New Baseball Park

Friday, September 17th 2010, 6:35 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- Several downtown Tulsa property owners suing over a tax for the baseball stadium had their cases dismissed this week.

Their attorney, though, says they're still in the game and he predicts they'll win.

7/14/2008 Related Story: Ballpark Battle Heats Up

The first season at ONEOK field made an undeniable impact on a corner of downtown. New businesses opened, especially near Greenwood and much more is planned.

"The amount of development, the fact that residential is coming into the area so early is tremendous and ahead of schedule and is impressive especially during an economic downturn," said Stan Lybarger, Tulsa Stadium Trust.

But further away, the impact is both less obvious and just as clear. While every downtown property owner shares the cost of the ballpark, not all believe they share the benefits.

"It's just nutty that certain people are being tapped for it and some are not, they're being assessed whether they'll ever benefit from it or not," said Kent Morlan, attorney. "Their argument is that a rising tide raises all boats. Well that's not true."

Morlan and several others sued the stadium trust over the fee, in a case now whittled down to one property owner. The case will determine whether the owner of some warehouses around Gunboat Park should have to pay a $200,000 over 30 years.

"Properties directly across the expressway are not being assessed and properties a mile away are," Morlan said.

The ballpark assessment doesn't apply to land just outside the IDL, like the election board. The fee does apply to other land just as far from the ballpark, like everything around the arena. In fact the stadium trust leaders figure all of the progress downtown is due in part to the ballpark.

Stan Lybarger, Tulsa Stadium Trust: "So there are many projects scattered all the inner dispersal loop that are a result of the stimulus created downtown by the major projects."

Emory Bryan, The News On 6: "You think those are connected to this?"

Stan Lybarger, Tulsa Stadium Trust: "No question about it."

While there's no doubt that business is up around the ballpark and taxes are up for government, the question at trial will be if people further down the street benefit and whether it's fair for them to pay for the ballpark. The trial to answer those questions could still be a year away.