Aging Alamodome Would Need More Upgrades to Host Final Four Again

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Fans arrive to the Alamodome.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Fans arrive at the Alamodome during the 2018 NCAA men's Final Four in March.

San Antonio will learn Monday whether it will be picked to host the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four within the next eight years.

Regardless of whether the city’s bid is successful, another round of upgrades is needed for the 25-year-old Alamodome, multiple officials involved with the bid for a future Final Four told the Rivard Report. Potential improvements include adding more suites, upgrading elevators, and updating the concourse on the uppermost level.

The building, which has played host to four men’s Final Fours and two women’s Final Fours, was the recent recipient of a $65.5 million facelift prior to the 2018 men’s Final Four, paid for by the City and other entities such as the Alamo Bowl.

“The Alamodome performed extremely well during the last men’s Final Four that we hosted,” said Patricia Muzquiz Cantor, director of the City’s Convention and Sports Facilities Department. “However, as a facility, we are always striving to ensure that we remain competitive with other venues. Based upon feedback from stakeholders and users of the Alamodome, the City is evaluating options for potential improvements to the Alamodome.”

In its bid for the 2023, 2025, or 2026 men’s Final Four, San Antonio is competing against Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Phoenix, all of which have venues that are newer than the Alamodome.

There is still $38.6 million in debt to be paid on the recent renovations, Muzquiz Cantor said. Revenue from parking and ticket fees at the Alamodome go toward that debt. No revenues from property taxes or the City’s general fund are involved.

City staff is already working with outside consultants to develop a new capital improvements plan for the Alamodome that would address maintenance and additional upgrades, Muzquiz Cantor said.

It’s too early in the process to know when that plan will be complete and ready for presentation to City Council, what renovations City officials will recommend, and how much it will cost, Muzquiz Cantor said. But officials already know some of the NCAA’s minimum requirements that would need to be met if San Antonio was awarded another Final Four.

For instance, the NCAA now requires a Final Four facility to have at least 70 suites. Some of the more modern venues the Alamodome competes against for such events feature more than 100 suites. The Alamodome has just 52.

The San Antonio Local Organizing Committee (SALOC) constructed 14 temporary suites on the south side of the stadium for the 2018 Final Four, but permanent suites would be required in the future. In addition to 14 suites on the south end, the City is looking at building four suites at the 50-yard line on the mezzanine level of the stadium, said Jenny Carnes, SALOC’s executive director.

But suites are only one issue. SALOC officials met with the NCAA in May to get feedback on this year’s Final Four. Carnes said one issue the NCAA would like to see addressed at the Alamodome is making the facility more accessible to people with disabilities.

“I’ll say there was very little on the negative side,” Carnes said. “The feedback was very positive on how we performed and the results that we produced.”

Two other issues being studied are the possibility of improving the concourse on the uppermost level to make sure there is parity between it and the Plaza Level, which was expanded in the latest renovation. Improving concessions, flooring, and lighting would be a part of the fifth-level concourse renovation.

The final big issue being examined is the possibility of upgrading elevators and vertical transportation in the building.

Robin Jerstad for the Rivard Report

Visitors look over the Alamodome during an August 2017 tour that showcased renovations made to the building.

Whatever improvements are ultimately recommended must be approved by the City Council, Muzquiz Cantor said. She said any renovations would be paid for from the Community and Visitor Facilities Fund, which gets its revenue from operations at the
Alamodome and Convention Center and a portion of the city’s hotel occupancy tax.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, University of Texas at San Antonio President Taylor Eighmy, and Carnes were part of a 10-member group that traveled July 10 from San Antonio to Boston to present San Antonio’s bid for the 2023, 2025, or 2026 Final Four. San Antonio removed itself from consideration for the 2024 event because it already has contracted with a technology convention that year.

San Antonio also is bidding for the 2021 women’s Final Four.

Carnes said that while there is no requirement to make further renovations, members of the San Antonio delegation pledged to study the issue and work with the NCAA to make sure the Alamodome met any necessary specifications if San Antonio is awarded another men’s Final Four.

Part of the City’s bid was a pledge of $1 million toward NCAA expenses in whatever year San Antonio is chosen to host, Carnes said. SALOC has raised that $1 million in private funds since the end of this year’s Final Four, she said, and was able to show the NCAA that money is already in the bank.

The NCAA is already approaching the $1 billion mark in revenue per year for the men’s NCAA Tournament from its television contract alone. It likely doesn’t need host cities to offer to help pay its expenses, but doing so might be a way for a city like San Antonio with an older stadium to make its best case.

Officials point to a study that estimated the 2018 Final Four would bring $185 million in economic impact to the city as evidence that it makes economic sense to continue to upgrade the Alamodome and offer incentives such as $1 million toward NCAA hosting expenses.

“The event is the biggest thing we do here in San Antonio,” Carnes said. “The return on our hosting investment is $185 million of economic impact by almost 100,000 out-of-town visitors and the national – and in some cases, international – exposure it brings to the city.

“Those are just media dollars you cannot buy through traditional advertising. So, yes, the event is worth it and everything that we give up to do it.”

10 thoughts on “Aging Alamodome Would Need More Upgrades to Host Final Four Again

  1. I worked at the Alamodome during the Final Four on the third floor level where the Press Box is. One of the things I heard from NCAA officials and newscasters was that the third floor level where the Press boxes and back of house spaces are need more restrooms.

  2. Every year it’s the same issue, too old, not enough suites, lacking modern amenities. Let’s quit wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on quick fixes when we should just save up all this money and invest in a brand new state of the art stadium.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I understand the frustration, but new stadiums that are competitive in the modern day are being built for more than $1 billion. San Antonio doesn’t have an NFL team. So it’s hard for some to justify spending that kind of money just to land the occasional big event. Obviously, if it was built, the City could probably attract big events more often, but it still might not be enough to justify the expense. You’re also not going to raise $billion on ticket fees and the Community and Visitor Facilities Fund alone. Where does the money come from? Some might think building a stadium could help attract an NFL team, but Dallas and Houston would probably furiously oppose that. The last round of renovations cost $65.5 million. Even if San Antonio spent that same amount this time around, you’re still miles away from $1 billion.

  4. I came down with a bad csse of sciatica Friday before the Final Four.
    There wasn’t any wheelchairs anywhere to be found. I had to struggle to get into the building where wheelchairs were available, but had to wait 20 minutes to get one.
    Monday I went to a different entrance and again had to walk almost all the way including halfway up the spiral entrance.
    The Alamodome was not ready for people who needed help. There was mo one to help b a ck out of the building to the Uber location. I had to walk all of that distance in pain.
    I like San Antonio. I’ve been there for the 4 Final Fours.
    PLEASE improve the building for us that may need some help. I’d love to come back for my 5th Final Four in San Antonio. This was my 26th Final Four.

  5. Wheelchair seating is horrible. I’ve been there to watch a few football games and each and everytime I’ve seen less of the game and more of people’s backs. They stand and those of us in the wheelchair section can no longer see. Seriously, ADA improvements are needed in order to make the Alamodome competitive.

  6. Unfortunately, the stadium arms race may have left San Antonio in the dust. Houston and Dallas now have billion-dollar stadiums full of corporate suites and sponsors. These locations can be reached my daily direct flights from all major cities in the country. With no real prospect of a professional football franchise, there may not be a good reason to expend hundreds of millions in local funds to support construction of a new stadium in San Antonio (or even continued retrofitting of the Alamodome).

    All of this is a shame because visitors would much rather spend a weekend in San Antonio instead of Houston or Dallas. While the income and excitement generated by events such as the Final Four would be missed, perhaps this is an opportunity to reinvest in the quality of life for local citizens and our public spaces. The era of giving $500M of public funds for the construction of an NFL stadium may soon be coming to an end (see Oakland).

  7. What the Alamodome needs is a Soccer team from the Major League Soccer in Mexico. Every time they come to town, they put 40,000 people in the stands.

    The Final Four probably said goodbye to San Antonio for the foreseeable future. Dallas and Houston will be given the weekend before it comes back here.

    It will never fit for a AAA baseball team, and soccer plus UTSA football looks like the best future for the Dome.

  8. Perhaps the most visible building of SATX, second to the Tower, and also
    the ugliest. This eye sore needs to be torn down and replaced with something of vision.

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