Experts Want Cash for Private Business

Urbanism/Urban Design/Public Policy/San Antonio

I once heard a respected university professor tell the tale of the Alamodome. He highlighted the lies, half-truths, and political wrangling involved in the misguided pursuit of an NFL franchise that still has yet to materialize. What business does San Antonio – or any municipality for that matter – have in courting sports teams with subsidized stadiums?

The numbers all say that cities have wasted lots of money on sports teams owners. As a native San Antonian, I can tell you that the numbers do not accurately reflect the impact of a successful sports franchise on community morale.

But do we really think the only way to lift the community morale is through NBA championships? Maybe the morale of criminally underfunded teachers would be improved through some investment. Perhaps those hotel taxes could be used to help smooth over the those budget issues we so often hear about?

Well, some city leaders got together to discuss this type of thing. Sports stadiums do not drive economic development. It is the other way around. Just as ‘fan support’ really means ‘corporate support’

The panel agreed that the city lacks the fan support now that is necessary for a Major League Baseball team.

This was hilarious

Mike Sawaya, San Antonio’s director of Convention & Sports Facilities, said the city is conducting due diligence and will have more answers soon.

“We understand the sense of urgency,” he said.

He told scores of residents at the event that the city is working on updating a 2011 study that found San Antonio is best suited for MLS and Triple-A rather than MLB and NFL.

With a population boom of more than a million new residents expected over the next couple decades, San Antonio could eventually be home to multiple major-league sports, the panelists agreed.

Yes, when those residents have jobs and discretionary income that is ripe for the taking from entertainment businesses like Sports teams.

More on the subject of sports stadiums as economic drivers

“I think Judge Wolff would probably tell you if he could do it all over again, he’d pick a different place,” Yarbrough said. “When I look at some of the trends we see in some of the new Triple-A ballparks that have been built in the last few years, you see some economic development around them.”

Please. What trends? Also, they just got done discussing the fact that Wolff Stadium was in a rut because the nearby actual economic drivers went under. Without Levi and Kelly AFB rocking, there isn’t much reason to head out that way.

And really, in the fifteen years since the county opened the ATT Center, all the promised East Side revitalization has been mostly street improvements designed to help folks get away as fast as possible after games. In fact, the Spurs spend lots of time and effort trying to get you to stay afterward for weird fan parties outside the game.

So what are we doing here?

Before we continue, let me state some things.

  1. I would like to have the option to saunter into a Triple-A game downtown, just like I would have liked going to a Scorpions game downtown and hanging out afterward.
  2. One of the cooler things about the Dome after a UTSA football game, is continuing the day downtown along the River Walk. On of the terrible things is how disconnected the Dome is from the heart of that area. They are, however continuously improving that.
  3. Neither of these things are best uses of resources. A downtown park, better sidewalks, improving walkability, improving lighting all would do wonders in continuing the influx of activity downtown, much more than shoehorning a Triple-A stadium.

I wasn’t there to hear it, but I certainly hope that part of the rationale for putting the stadium downtown (which would be great if the Elmore group bought the property all by itself) was that tourists are going to want to catch a game. That’s ridiculous.