SAN ANTONIO — Here we go again (with a roll of the eyes for added emphasis).
When will San Antonio city officials ever learn?
That was my reaction earlier this week when I read that San Antonio’s City Convention and Sports Facilities Department is seeking to contract with a consulting firm to assess the viability of San Antonio as the home to another major sports franchise besides the Spurs.
Didn’t we just go through this a few years ago, you might ask? Yes, we did. The city hired Premier Partnerships, a consulting firm with offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, in 2011 to do a feasibility study on whether San Antonio could attract and support teams in the NFL, Major League Baseball of Major League Soccer.
The study also examined the city’s chances of landing other minor-league franchises but, for obvious reasons, the main focus among fans was on the NFL, MLS and MLB.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said late last year that he wanted to update the study sometime in 2019, probably in the spring. Well, here we are in mid-May and the city is searching for a firm to evaluate how the calculus has changed, if at all. It’s also no coincidence that the matter of San Antonio’s future in pro sports has come up in the middle of Nirenberg’s mayoral runoff race against Greg Brockhouse.
In its 2011 report to the city, Premier Partnerships concluded that San Antonio should pursue an MLS franchise. Eight years later, there still is no San Antonio franchise in the MLS.
And the NFL and MLB? To think that the Alamo City has a chance of landing a franchise in either league is a pipe dream. It’s just not going to happen. To believe otherwise is to hold out false hope against the cold light of reality.
Let’s take a look at the NFL, since that’s the country’s most popular pro sports league. Whether San Antonio fans could support an NFL team is not the question. I believe they could. But I also believe, given the obstacles, there’s no way the city could attract an NFL franchise.
The major stumbling block is that San Antonio has no stadium or multipurpose facility that is up to NFL standards. The Alamodome, which opened 26 years ago Wednesday and was built at a cost of $186 million, is too old and lacks the amenities that are common at NFL stadiums across the country.
The Alamodome doesn’t have enough personal suites, and another drawback is that the press box is too small. In reality, the 65,000-seat facility was outdated as an NFL stadium the day it opened its doors.
Expansion is not on the NFL’s radar, so San Antonio’s only hope to land a franchise in the foreseeable future would be through a team seeking to relocate. With the Oakland Raiders settling on Las Vegas as their new home, there’s nothing on the horizon indicating that another NFL team is seeking to move.
And speaking of the Raiders, let’s not forget that principal owner Mark Davis spoke to San Antonio city officials in July 2014 about the possibility of relocating to the Alamo City. But that never went anywhere.
For San Antonio to even be considered for an NFL franchise, the city would have to build a stadium or multipurpose facility with the hope that it would attract a suitor. You know, 'build it and they will come,' to borrow from the movie “Field of Dreams.”
Of course, taxpayers would have to approve footing the bill for a stadium – and that would be the longest of long shots. But the costs wouldn’t stop there. Team officials probably would want the city to build the franchise a practice facility, complete with all the infrastructure, before agreeing to relocate.
San Antonio faces other stumbling blocks in its pursuit of an NFL franchise that need to be addressed candidly.
Does anybody in their right mind believe that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would ever cede the San Antonio area and South Texas to an NFL franchise in the Alamo City? That’s not ever going to happen.
Yes, we know Jerry is not going to be around forever. But his oldest son, Stephen, the Cowboys’ executive vice president, CEO and director of player personnel, will be no less inclined to keep an NFL franchise out of San Antonio whenever he takes over the Cowboys’ entire operation.
San Antonio’s thin corporate base – the city has only five Fortune 500 companies – would be another obstacle for S.A.’s chances of landing an NFL team.
We shouldn’t have to pay a firm to tell us what we already know. So what if we never get an NFL, MLB or MLS franchise. Big deal. There are more important things in the life of a city.
San Antonio can take pride in the reputation it has built as one of the best cities in the country for amateur sports. Thanks to San Antonio Sports, formerly the San Antonio Sports Foundation, and other movers and shakers, the city has attracted many events that have promoted the city and reflected the best of its citizens.
We have a proven track record. Just ask the thousands who came to San Antonio for the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four last year, or the many fans who have filled the Alamodome for the Alamo Bowl every year since 1993.
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