Pro sports in San Antonio was the main topic of a panel discussion hosted by District 8 City Councilman Ron Nirenberg at Hills & Dales Ice House on the Northwest Side, held on Tuesday, April 26.
Representatives from the San Antonio Missions, the City of San Antonio, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the nonprofit San Antonio Sports all weighed in on the city’s present flirtation with luring a Triple-A baseball team, as well as future dreams such as a Major League Soccer team or an NFL franchise.
On that last note, Michael Sawaya, San Antonio's director of convention, sports and entertainment facilities, says the NFL has run the numbers, and that the dual market of San Antonio-Austin could support a pro football team. But that investment in the NFL comes with a price, as does Major League Baseball, for which he felt there would be a $100 million price tag.
Sawaya says San Antonio’s next great opportunity is for a Major League Soccer franchise. But that’s not the talk of the town.
Earlier in April, it was announced that Elmore Sports Group, who own the San Antonio Missions Double-A baseball team, would move its Triple-A team from Colorado Springs to the Alamo City if the commitment was made to build a new stadium in the central city. The downtown location would be important for drawing fans and economic development, noted Burl Yarbrough, president of the San Antonio Missions.
Yarbrough touted the seven million fans that have visited Wolff Stadium since it was built while admitting its location didn’t live up to its promise after the nearby Levi’s plant and Kelly Air Force Base closed down. He says there are three different cities interested in taking on San Antonio’s Double-A franchise, and that if a Triple-A team moved to town, they would remain known as the San Antonio Missions.
Stadium development can be a controversial issue, and for every promise of economic development, there are folks that will point to the Alamodome as as gigantic albatross on the city’s East Side. Built to lure an NFL team that never came, the Alamodome also didn’t revitalize the neighborhood around it. Still, insists UTSA’s Lynn Hickey, “the Alamodome is a gold mine,” and anyone that’s frustrated by its career path doesn’t understand its current impact.
Sawaya said the Alamodome “opened debt free” and recently hosted conventions such as Al-Anon and the Seventh Day Adventists, who brought in 65,000 people to the facility. The Dome also hosts graduations, and as Hickey proudly pointed out, the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, and UTSA football.
Listen to the entire panel discussion in the audio link above to hear more about:
- UTSA Athletics
- Major League Soccer vs. other pro sports
- What other cities the panel feels have developed their sports presence effectively
- Who Burl Yarbrough thinks are the top San Antonio Missions players
- Ron Nirenberg, City Councilman District 8
- Russ Bookbinder, San Antonio Sports
- Lynn Hickey, UTSA Athletics
- Michael Sawaya, San Antonio Convention, Sports and Entertainment Facilities
- Burl Yarbrough, San Antonio Missions