Iris Dimmick / Rivard Report
If the city builds a new downtown baseball stadium, San Antonio Missions owner Dave Elmore said he’ll bring a Triple-A baseball team, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, to play in it for the 2019 baseball season.
Mayor Ivy Taylor announced Thursday that the City’s $750 million bond program will include money to build a new stadium to host Triple-A baseball games in a still-undetermined location. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has estimated that the stadium could cost around $75 million.
Elmore said he hopes the city can find a spot “close by and on the river.” He and his company, Elmore Sports Group, owns six minor league teams across the U.S. He has owned the SA Missions for 30 years.
Centro San Antonio is working on finalizing a report that examines several possible locations.
“We need to do further analysis on the sites and gather some more information on the cost,” Taylor said after the City Council meeting on Thursday. Location could be a significant variable in the cost of the stadium. Construction downtown is a more expensive endeavor for any project, but Taylor said a downtown stadium fits into the direction of the City’s SA Tomorrow comprehensive plan, which is expected to prioritize downtown’s continuing development as an attractive place to live, work and play.
“There’s no way that SA Tomorrow will not advance continued investments in downtown,” she said, and a ballpark fits into that vision.
During City Council’s discussions of bond priorities last week, there was an emphasis on alignment with the SA Tomorrow plan, which will be released this spring, and getting “back to the basics” of investing in streets, sidewalks, and other “every-day” infrastructure needs. Such needs were also prioritized by citizens during the 2016 budget surveys. By the City’s own estimate, more than $3 billion in streets, sidewalks and drainage projects await funding, far outstripping the City’s capacity to fund through the capital budget.
“Those basics are still what everyone thinks about and we need to take care of them,” Councilman Mike Gallagher (D10) said last week. “This is a politically sensitive time. We want to make sure people know we’re spending money wisely. Let’s stay with the basics. Let’s not go with the projects that make us happy, but with projects that we need.”
Voters will go to the polls in May 2017 City Election, which will include the various bond proposals, including any taxpayer-funded downtown sports venue. Publicly funded sports venues, especially those without the team owner’s financial participation in the design and construction costs, often draw significant opposition. The Obama administration’s proposed 2016 budget included a Treasury Department recommendation that would have banned the use of tax-exempt city bonds to finance sports venues, as outlined in this Wall Street Journal article.
Taylor said she is confident that a stadium will win citizen support.
“The voters here are pretty savvy in making decisions to invest in our community,” she said. “Certainly we will do all our due diligence to make the case. We started the process several years ago through a study that showed San Antonio is a great strong market for Triple-A baseball if it’s in a downtown stadium.”
Under the proposed scenario, the San Antonio Missions, a Double-A team that plays in the aging Wolff Stadium on the Westside, will play through the 2018 season before moving to a new city. Amarillo has been the only city so far that has piqued Elmore Group’s interest, but no final decisions have been made, Elmore said. He also owns territorial rights to the local baseball market, so any team coming in and out of San Antonio requires his approval.
Taylor said bringing in a Triple-A team is a natural next step for a growing city like San Antonio that wants to compete in a global economy.
The deal hinges entirely on the construction of a downtown ballpark, Elmore said, but he likely won’t be an equity partner in the stadium.
“What typically happens is the team does invest money in part of the facilities,” he said. “It could be in concessions, it could be signage, it’s just usually a variety of alternative ways that the team gets involved (financially).”
Top image: The San Antonio Missions mascots Henry the Puffy Taco and Ballapeno pose for a photo with Mayor Ivy Taylor and SA Missions owner Dave Elmore marking Elmore’s 30 years as owner of the minor league baseball team. Photo by Iris Dimmick