Friday, October 28, 2005

Hope this isn't good money after bad

The radio report on KRMG tonight was that the Bank of Oklahoma is spending $11 million for the naming rights to the new downtown arena. The BOk Center. Or should it read: The Be Okay Center? Or We'll Be Okay Center.

Actually this is how it will look (at right).

KOTV reports that it's a 20-year deal.

Immediately a thinking man (or thinking woman, for that matter) must consider how odd it is that the City of Tulsa, which through its Airport authority is being sued for the not-so-trivial amount of $7 million plus owed to Bank of Oklahoma in the Great Plains Airlines fiasco, should be reaping a fine $11 million harvest from the same Bank of Oklahoma on the arena naming rights.

We ask ourselves: is there a link in this somehow? A quid pro quo? A little smoke-filled backroom agreement which might salve the wounds caused by an unpaid $7 million loan?

Not even sure there would be anything wrong with that. (That's for the legal department to ponder. Not our job.)

All of this is mere speculation, of course, but it's all we have left to occupy our time since Tulsa Mayor Bob LaFortune insists that there is no linkage at all. "Totally separate issues," he said, twice, on the radio newscast. If there was linkage, would he admit it?

Thus we get no satisfaction for our speculation.

Part of our thinking is that it would be a smart move of reconciliation for the City of Tulsa to sell the naming rights for $11 million, and write-off $7 million as a gesture of good will, a forgive-and-forget kind of thing. Whether that would satisfy the demands of justice is another matter altogether and, once again, an issue for more lawyerly minds.

It's hard not to ponder one other question: Who really pays for the naming rights when banks go throwing money around?

The answer? Its customers.

That's not very satisfying either. Sure would be sad if it turned out that the BOK customers pay off the bill for the unpaid airport loan, when there are most definitely others out there who actually derived some benefits from the Great Plains adventure in creative financing.


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