Alamo ‘Branding’ Survey Shows Support for Street Closures, Cenotaph Relocation

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Tourists stop by and visit the front of The Alamo. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Tourists visit Alamo Plaza.

One out of every five visitors to the Alamo doesn’t actually enter the historic Spanish-colonial mission, according to a survey of 2,068 local, Texan, and national travelers.

The survey, commissioned as part of the Alamo redevelopment planning process and released Wednesday, also shows that most of those travelers (including 236 San Antonio residents surveyed) favor the redevelopment plan’s controversial design elements, such as creating a “more reverent” space around the Alamo, adding more shade and trees, building a state-of-the-art museum, reclaiming and delineating the footprint of the original Alamo mission and battlefield site, closing nearby streets, and moving the Alamo Cenotaph.

Click here to download the 78-page report and analysis by Missouri-based H2R Market Research, which used a consultant to conduct the online survey. Click here to download the questionnaire.  Of the respondents, 200 were locals, 1,600 were Texans, and 400 were people from so-called “feeder” cities: Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; San Jose, California; Los Angeles; San Diego; Denver; and Phoenix. Thirty-seven percent of the Texan respondents were Hispanic.

“For us, this is just a treasure trove of data that helps inform decision making,” said Douglass McDonald, CEO of the Alamo. “A fundamental piece [of the redesign] is about asking the customer what they want.”

The customers, in this case, are San Antonians, Texans, and travelers from across the nation and globe, especially now that the Alamo and four other missions are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

“What they really want is more activities,” McDonald said, and “surprisingly … there’s really not much difference between what San Antonians want to have happen and what the people of Texas want to have happen.”

More than 2,000 people, most live in Texas, participated in the survey that included questions about the Alamo Master Plan proposal.

Courtesy / H2R Market Research

More than 2,000 people, most living in Texas, participated in the survey that included questions about the Alamo Master Plan proposal.

The survey identified the Alamo’s strengths as offering self-guided tours, on-site museums and structures, and activities for all ages. But it also identified “unmet needs” such as more shade, new events and attractions, and a greater variety of things to do.

Overall, 50 percent of respondents were in favor of removing businesses like Ripley’s Believe it Or Not! museum and Tomb Raider 3D Adventure from across Alamo plaza. Hispanic respondents were even less likely to want them removed, according to the data.

“Removing those had the least support because families come here and families need more family-oriented expreiences” McDonald said. “The Alamo should be providing that.”

The Hispanics surveyed were less supportive of removing commercial activities like Ripley's Believe It Or Not! and more supportive of increasing reverence around the Alamo compared to their caucasian counterparts.

Courtesy / H2R Market Research

Hispanics surveyed were less supportive of removing commercial concerns like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! and more supportive of increasing reverence around the Alamo compared to other survey respondents.

Generally, the survey shows that people want a more “reverent” experience for people of all ages, he said, without street preachers yelling and commercial vehicles going by – a concept planners were already envisioning. Nearly half of visitors said they went to the Alamo with children under the age of 18.

“Inappropriate behaviors for families should not be part of this space,” McDonald said. Planners have included an element of “managed access” to Alamo Plaza since the first master plan draft was released last year with the infamous glass walls that surrounded the barren, treeless plaza.

The most recent interpretive plan, released in June, replaces the walls with gates, fences, and railings; dozens more trees line the plaza and surrounding areas. The plaza, designers hope, will become a kind of outdoor extension of the museum – whether that museum is inside the historic buildings there or they are demolished to make way for new construction.

The survey results are in stark contrast to the recent public meetings held regarding the multimillion-dollar public-private plan to “reimagine” the Alamo and its surrounding areas. Descendants of those who fought in the 1836 battle and others are vehemently opposed to moving the Cenotaph, an empty tomb honoring the defenders of the Alamo. They have shown up in force – as have local urban planners and architects who oppose partially closing off the public square and surrounding streets and preservationists who want to save the three historic buildings designers suggested be demolished to make way for that state-of-the-art museum.

Alamo CEO Douglas McDonald attempts to talk down a crowd of citizens opposed to the revised Alamo master plan.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Alamo CEO Douglass McDonald addresses a crowd of citizens opposed to the revised Alamo master plan.

“We respect the points of view that are expressed at public meetings,” McDonald said. “But public meetings are not a scientific method for understanding what people think.”

The H2R survey is not, however, a survey of the general public that is commonly released to the public, said longtime Austin-based pollster Michael Baselice, whom Alamo officials asked to review the study’s methodology.

Each respondent, according to an H2R researcher, had to confirm that they:

  • are familiar with San Antonio;
  • have visited at least one type of attraction in the past 12 months;
  • are at least 18 years of age;
  • take at least one leisure trip a year requiring an overnight stay or at least 50 miles from home;
  • are a household decision maker.

“In this regard, it is unique set of respondents and survey results that stands on its own,” Baselice wrote in his review.

That distinction is important, he told the Rivard Report, because this is a survey of a subset of adults, who happened to be mostly (64 percent) women.

The purpose of the study was not to gauge public opinion of the master plan, rather, “to provide decision makers with a benchmark that measures how attractions visitors across the region view The Alamo’s brand as a travel destination,” he said.

“If I do a survey of people who eat pizza … I might categorize them by who eats pizza once a month, twice a month, et cetera,” Baseslice said. “It’s a whole different survey when I [exclude] people that never eat pizza.”

Most people do go on at least one trip per year, he said, so a lot of the panelists surveyed and compensated by the global company Research Now were probably not disqualified.

In his review, he also noted that the survey was statistically valid.

Visual aides and renderings were not used in the survey, he said, but it’s possible that another one could be conducted that used renderings of the redevelopment plan’s elements.

The results of the survey, which was shared with plan designers last week, is “going to encourage people to make decisions based on data,” McDonald said. “The data should unify us. It does not divide us.”

35 thoughts on “Alamo ‘Branding’ Survey Shows Support for Street Closures, Cenotaph Relocation

  1. The survey results are enlightening. As a displaced (or properly placed) Californian, it my not be my place to speak, but with regard to the Cenotaph I think it is great and should be in close proximity to the Alamo, but it can be moved. It does not bother me that it was erected 100 years after the battle to commemorate the Centennial? What better time? Look at Gettysburg, there are monuments galore, most placed decades after the battle.

    What is important is that it be restored. Larry Steven of Stevens Art Foundry, whose father S.P. was involved in erecting the monument, he related that the interior structure is in dire need of repair. He also told me the that Coppini is credited with the work, it was actually Coppini’s sister, an excellent sculptress, who did most of the representational work.

    • Hi Robert, would you mind expanding on the comments about Coppini’s sister? I have a great interest in the Texas Centennial, and never heard the story about Coppini’s sister. I have several old newspaper articles, Centennial Commission correspondence, and Coppini’s autobiography. Perhaps you meant his protege, Waldine Tauch? I need to look up Larry Stevens also. Whatever I can gather on the Centennial is helpful.
      By the way, the Alamo is for EVERYONE, and your comments are greatly appreciated!!

      • Susan,

        You are correct. It was Waldine Tauch from Brady, Coppini’s adopted daughter. Coppini got the commission and turned over much of the work to Tauch and other women who were studying under him.

        I was looking for your email address to supply other info. You can get my email from Bob.

  2. Just build a big building over the Alamo, air condition it and make it a museum indoors with the Alamo inside….This will protect it from all the weather and then it can be locked up at night…

  3. Don’t commercialized the Alamo or the Plaza for financial gains this is sacred ground of the 1836 battle
    and before ….
    The
    Native’ Indians
    Keep it natural keep it original leave it alone!!
    Don’t move
    The Cenotaph!
    Put our D.R.T and S.R.T Also The Alamo Bloodine
    aka The Alamo Descendants there to help w day to day operations!!!!

  4. As an experienced sociologist who teaches social science research design, I can attest that this is not a scientific poll. While better than some recent efforts, this one neither captures the views of San Antonians who use the Alamo area nor does it even measure the views of the our diverse visitors.

    In technical terms, it lacks an accurate sampling frame. Pollster Baceslice’s pizza analogy is a good one, except that this kind of street poll inevitably fails to capture the diversity of pizza eaters and the various kinds of pizza they eat.

    1) This poll focuses on tourists, a few local but mostly from elsewhere, and it captures a potentially unrepresentative subset of them. Did the pollsters collect data at all times of day and evening? Did they collect over several weeks? Did they collect during special events as well as in ordinary times? If not, their sample does not represent even visitors’ views accurately.

    2) What about the Fiesta paraders for whom having their parade pass in front of the city’s best-known icon is a core part of their celebration? Are they not also important to the Alamo “brand”?

    Yes, you can run statistics on a poll of 2068. You can’t, however, generalize those statistics to any larger population unless your sample represent the larger population accurately. This one does not.

    It’s clear that the “Alamo redevelopment planning process” is aimed at attracting a certain kind of tourist. And it is not even well-aimed at that.

    • Baseslice said it was a scientific poll and it was a random group selected through a Texas survey company used by Baseslice. Further it was not a “street poll” but a scientifically based sampling.

      1,600 Texans from all over the state were surveyed.

    • I agree. You can design and ask questions in certain ways that can get you any results you want.
      I believe this was how this was survey was designed and conducted.

    • I agree. In 2017, I did an informal survey of 3,000 people in San Antonio, and its results were completely differently. The survey is highly suspect. Statistical standards were not used for this so-called survey. I expect more from the Rivard Report and its reporters.
      You might want to read a book called, “How to Lie with Statistics?”. I finished 4 years of post-graduate statistical study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Please feel free to contact me at: tnstoker@hotmail.com or check my Linkedin page, Teresa Stoker or Teresa Yantis Stoker.

      • Bad survey and survey techniques. In April 2017, I did an informal survey of 3,000 people in San Antonio, and its results were completely differently. The survey is highly suspect. Statistical standards were not used for this so-called survey. I expect more from the Rivard Report and its reporters.
        You might want to read a book called, “How to Lie with Statistics?”. I finished 4 years of post-graduate statistical study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Please feel free to contact me at: tnstoker@hotmail.com or check my Linkedin page, Teresa Stoker or Teresa Yantis Stoker.

  5. Maybe I missed it, but I couldn’t find the survey questions. The article claims that the survey supports moving the cenotaph, but the bar graph representation of the responses indicates the respondents support “repair and restore”, not “repair restore and move” the cenotaph. Did I miss something? If I didn’t the article is inaccurate.

  6. How about putting up a mural or 3-D or holographic depiction of the battle around the Alamo in the areas the battle was fought? You could put up clear panels depicting this, done in Europe.

  7. Rivard The Kingmaker strikes again.
    Commercializing the Alamo is Ok for the developers, and ok with Rivard.
    Gentrification (screw the poor….they don’t matter) looks good to Rivard and all the Little Princes trying to have their way.
    This poll is phony as….well, nothing compares.

  8. I would like to have access to who was surveyed. It is not what the majority wants.
    This plan is being shoved down our throat’s. We do not want the street closed. The thought of not having the parades go by the Alamo is just heartbreaking.

    • Perhaps the misuse of pronouns is part of the problem. Anything that goes against my vote must be in the minority. Simply because a room is filled with one answer to the question, to me, doesn’t mean that that room-full of people is the majority. A random survey can be a “most accurate” answer to the question….better than a room full of people with signs handed out at the door.

  9. This whole survey was a farce. No scientific data to back it up. Tourists, not locals evaluated. They don’t have a stake in it. It is the citizens of San Antonio and Texas, and most importantly, the descendants of the Defenders that have a stake in it. It seems that they just sought out anyone that would agree to their idea.

    • Locals were included. The survey only excluded people who said they would not come to the Alamo or any other attraction or site in San Antonio. There is data on what people of San Antonio think.

      • The sample for the survey is totally flawed. The survey primarily targets tourists and not San Antonians residents who have the biggest stake. The Alamo is more than just about making money. It has a cultural and historical value that is important to many, many more people than just tourists.

        The survey’s overwhelming Hispanic support of the Alamo resign is also highly suspect since these toursists may not know the cultural, racial and political tensions that the local Hispanic population has experience around the Alamo myth. .

        How about interviewing Hispanics on the west and south side and see what they think? The results are lileky to be very, very different.

        See recent Rivard Report,
        ‘Remembering The Alamo: Story with Many Sides.’

        https://therivardreport.com/remembering-the-alamo-as-a-story-with-many-sides/

  10. The Alamo is the number one tourist attraction in Texas. A sure way to diminish this to to institute “managed access” to Alamo Plaza. The destruction of roads and streets and the construction of fences and railings is certain to frustrate the visitor and annoy the local.

  11. Those surveyed were asked if they would like to “Reclaim and delineate the footprint of the original Alamo mission and battlefield site” with absolutely no explanation that doing so would mow down other historic landmarks. No explanation; no photos of the buildings. People who are not impacted by street closures were asked if they want pedestrian-only. Their answers mean nothing. What kind of survey is that?

  12. I am with the majority on this one. The most common reaction by first-time visitors to the Alamo is “Is that all there is?” It has been so eclipsed by the encroaching city that it has lost its drama.

    By all means, move that ugly Cenotaph out of view, and shut down the gaudy unrelated operations across the street. What I would like to see in place of Ripley’s et al is an interpretive diorama of the battle, a la Gettysburg!

      • Gettysburg built a new visitor center, with museum exhibits and special education facilities. It has been very well received. The diarama was cool but the public likes this more. It is a model we use.

        • I was at the visitor center. Everyone who remembered the old diorama was asking where it was. The diorama at San Jose is gone, as well. It told the story of the missions quite well.

  13. I find it very interesting that we can not have any San Antonio firms involved with all of this planning. I know we have some very competent firms that could do market research. I do not know how this research can be statistically accurate when there are only 200 locals surveyed. We have had more than 200 people attend the meetings. So you really need to survey more than 200 “locals” to gauge support for this outlandish expenditure of public and donated funds. The “locals” that use the Alamo Plaza area regularly – like several times a week to daily – should have more voice in how/if the Plaza is closed to the traffic.

  14. Hilarious!! Hard to believe that out of towners do not care if we close streets and gum up our traffic!! Say it’s not so Joe…

  15. Looks like the evil hand of Sculley and the Chamber of Commerce to come up with a “survey ‘ showing that tourists support the Disneylanding of Alamo Pleaza. It
    is no coincidence that the “suevey” became public within hours of the SA Conservation Society started gathering petitions against the crazy Niremberg/Scully proposal. I will answer the “survey” at the next elections and the fire proposals! The fools at the Chamber should should shut up because I have not trusted them or the paper lying to us that if we would vote for the tax to pay for the Alamodome we would get an NFL team-put up or shut up Richard Perex!

  16. Iris, Thank you for a good job of reporting a complex and highly-emotional topic. Your idea about including links to the original documents was very helpful. About the survey: I don’t like surveys using undefined words such as “reverent space” – everyone will have a different definition but they answered the question anyway. The Alamo is the most important building to me – everything else is secondary and should not be the focus of the current efforts – I don’t want a Disneyworld Alamo – I want THE ALAMO. When I visit the Presidio La Bahia at Goliad – it’s just about the men who were willing
    to sacrifice their lives for Texas – a stand-alone building on the prairie. And
    that is exactly what I think about when I visit the Alamo – TEXAS – nothing else matters when I am there.

  17. As a family related member of a member that fought, died at the battle I find it irrehensible that this is even being discussed for “esthestics?” What a bunch of bs;
    Remember the Alamo (just as it was then!)
    Respectfully-

    William D. Sutherland

  18. I am a Certified Tour Guide and listened to a presentation by Douglass McDonald at The Alamo July 2nd, 2018. He kept saying The Alamo will be a managed site. He and his group, not from San Antonio, want to sanitize the whole area. Mr. McDonald refers to himself as a history guy and wants to enhance “The Alamo Experience.” I’m sure the developers and business interests are already counting their money. The Texas land office and George P. Bush, actually a Floridian, have alloted tons of money to this fiasco and by golly they intend to spend it. Mr. Douglass also said that everyone involved has good intentions. Seems I’ve heard an expression about good intentions. I wish Mr. Douglass , The Columbus Zoo maybe, would go back to Ohio and George back to Florida , Disneyworld, where they can find a good site to manage. Alamo Plaza is a living breathing place. They and the city only care about making money. The tourists come for a few days. For the rest of us this is our hometown and we live here. Shame on the city and I wish we had Mayor Taylor back. Last thought… can you imagine the elderly and disabled trying to visit with the heat and in walkers and wheelchairs?

  19. My husband and I went to the “Public Meeting” at The Witte last night. I say public but the public was not allowed to speak. The city is in the process of giving The Land Office complete control of The Alamo and Alamo Plaza and I have heard La Villita is next. I think Mayor Taylor was at least able to reign in the City Manager but our new Mayor is too busy buying new furniture and too impressed with his new position. I hope he is voted out along with the other council members who are collectively dismantling our beautiful old historic city. Tearing down old statues and pandering to Austin. Can you imagine people from Austin and other cities being told, ” We are going to get opinions from the people of San Antonio on how to improve Town Lake and The Stock Yards. Thats what our City Council is allowing. They are a true disgrace! Not to mention breaking their promise to provide a park for the East side at the end of The Hays Street Bridge. Pathetic!

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