Proposed Inclusion Of UTSA Athletic Complex In 2017 Bond Raises Questions
On May 6th, San Antonio voters will decide on the largest bond package ever proposed by the city.
If each of the six parts pass, the city could borrow $850 million dollars to put towards streets, flood control, public safety improvements are various other projects. The long term, low interest loan will not require an increase in the tax rate.
Proposition 3, which addresses parks, recreation and open space improvements, includes $10 million to help build an athletic complex on the University of Texas at San Antonio campus.
UTSA’s Park West Athletics Complex is where track athletes and soccer players currently train. Although a concession stand, spectator restrooms and a parking lot were all included with the facility's opening in 2013, it is difficult to hold team events.
“If we can add the restrooms and the changing rooms that we need for the athletes that are competing, plus add the medical area that would accommodate large tournaments and meets here, then that would be of a lot of help to us," UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey said about the proposed funding. "It's basically helping to finish off the investment that the city and county made here initially.”
Park West received money from the city’s 2007 bond and from Bexar County in 2008. Currently, UTSA athletes using these fields change in a portable building.
“If we had a soccer tournament here right now or a gigantic track meet we have no place for the athletes to dress or to change," Hickey says. "We don’t have a covered medical area. The trainers would have to set up under the stands.”
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Private donations will likely pay for most of the athletic facility. Texas law prohibits state money being used for college athletics. The City of San Antonio’s bond package includes $10 million to help with the team restrooms, changing rooms, and medical facility. So why would city money be used for construction at a state university?
That’s what Crystal Sperbe asked at a recent mayoral forum. She’s a UTSA grad.
“I feel like maybe the bond program had too much stuff packaged in. I want to say yes to parks and things like that but there’s also a great deal of things that I’d like to say no to is one of the big things is UTSA. Why is that in there?”
UTSA is in Councilman Ron Nirenberg’s district. He answered Sperbe’s question this way.
“Division One athletics require resources and the state does not fund athletic facilities. The state only funds academic buildings. So if we believe in the goals of UTSA then we have to be part of it.”
Christian Archer is the campaign manager for One SA. It’s the political action committee supporting the bond. He says the UTSA athletic facility is an investment for the city.
“The pay off for that for UTSA to expand and attract more people here and elevate – even down to college football and all of the things UTSA can provide – that’s going to attract more dollars to the city it will attract more businesses to the city and the long term return on investment easily outweighs the ten million dollars in bond funds.”
City and county money has helped build the Park West athletic facilities already in place. Lynn Hickey says until UTSA develops the kind of alumni support associated with older universities like UT Austin and Texas A&M having city and county financing is important.
“Our alumni base is young. It takes time to build a donor base that will give back. We’re about 46 years old whereas other universities are about 150 years old.”
She says for area residents there’s another benefit, too. The facilities will be available for tournament use by the public with UTSA permission.