Mayor Calls for Downtown Stadium, Triple-A Baseball Team by 2019

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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.

Iris Dimmick / Rivard Report

Former Mayor Ivy Taylor, Missions owner Dave Elmore, and mascots Henry the Puffy Taco and Ballapeño.

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.

San Antonio Missions owner Dave Elmore said he will bring a Triple-A team to San Antonio if the City builds a downtown stadium. Photo by Iris Dimmick

San Antonio Missions owner Dave Elmore said he will bring a Triple-A team to San Antonio if the City builds a downtown stadium. Photo by Iris Dimmick

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.

(Read More: City Council: Let’s Focus on the Basics with $750 Million Bond and City Emphasizes ‘Back to Basics’ 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.

Mayor Ivy Taylor is confident that voters will support building a potentially $75 million baseball stadium downtown. Photo by Iris Dimmick

Mayor Ivy Taylor is confident that voters will support a downtown baseball stadium. Photo by Iris Dimmick

“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

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The Case for Major League Baseball in San Antonio

42 thoughts on “Mayor Calls for Downtown Stadium, Triple-A Baseball Team by 2019

  1. Minor League teams are not a blimp on the radar in a global economy. S.A. needs to emulate what smaller metros did to land MLB teams. Metros like Kansas City, Milwaukee, Cinncinatti, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Patronizing a game versus the Astros or Rangers is much much more worthwhile and will draw thousands of more fans. SA should have tried for an AAA team decades ago. It is like a college student trying to enroll in junior high. Come on S.A. try for the big leagues.

  2. Besides the Alamodome and whatever the future has in store for that stadium, I don’t see how it’s necessary or possible to put a baseball stadium in downtown SA. I’m still hoping that we can bring in an NFL team to play in the Alamodome but I don’t see how a soccer or a triple A baseball team would help the city. In my opinion, I feel like an NFL team along with our Spurs would bring in a greater revenue for our city.

  3. Here we go again. Another white elephant at taxpayers expense with little economic return aka minimum wage concession jobs. The Alamodome isn’t enough? Before UtSA downtown, that building was sitting around vacant for awhile too.

  4. This is exactly why SA is so far behind in terms of innovation. Why don’t we spend 75 million on getting more high-skill, high-wage jobs instead of another call center! Dallas, Houston and Austin all lead the way on $100,000+ jobs and SA is still lagging behind. We need WAY more announcements and investments like Google Fiber or another major tech giant doing business here to seriously put us on the map and make us a contender against other large cities. I can’t believe Ivy thinks this is what is important for SA. This is stupid!!!!

    • Art–I’ve never read a comment that more perfectly captures exactly what I’m thinking. We need to stop wasting our time on these things. If we invest in our PEOPLE and create JOBS, MLB will come to us eventually! Look at Austin–they aren’t wasting their time on this type of thing, but their investments in the community and startups/job creation 10-20 years ago have created a scenario where companies move there without any incentives and MLS and other teams are trying to get into their market.

  5. Anything that brings people together and helps the city is always a good investment. The owner of the Missions is a great member of our community and has given back to us in many ways. It’s a good move Mrs. Mayor! You have my vote.

  6. I have a feeling this is not going to go well. The same “no government” crowd that killed the streetcar project will come out in droves to vote down any bond proposal that includes 3/4 of a billion dollars for a privately owned baseball team, if the owner’s only investment in the facility is “signage.”

    San Antonio is not the liberal bastion that some imagine it to be. There are a lot of folks who subscribe to Grover Norquist’s belief that they want to be able to “drag government into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” They want smaller government, or as our city leaders have described this bond, “back to basics.”

    How will the mayor and council be able to defend $750 million dollars for a private venture that could have instead gone to roads and sidewalks?

    It may sound like I am opposed to the stadium. I’m not necessarily. I’m opposed to this stadium being built for a wealthy businessman entirely with public funds.

    • Andy–AGREED. Especially when it’s not even Major League! We already have one vacant, moneypit sports complex Downtown, that they just had to put another $43mm into. While I love the idea of the Downtown stadium, I just don’t see this going well…

      This piece by John Oliver on stadiums is AWESOME if you haven’t seen it:

  7. Here’s what I don’t get – we know stadiums don’t bring economic growth or meaningful gains in jobs. Opening a major league stadium has a similar effect on jobs as opening a Target. If an owner wants to build a stadium downtown with their own money, have at it – these are rich businessmen; no need to subsidize them with public money. Being a “global city” or even a regional center has nothing to do with sports teams (although they tend to migrate to such centers). Rather, what we need is increases in high wage jobs, and a AAA team is not going to attract talented workers or businesses. We need education, investment in human capital and infrastructure, and a business-friendly environment. I want to see MLS, NFL, and even MLB in San Antonio, but not through public subsidies and extortion like that applied to Oakland and St. Louis.

    • Start a group to oppose all bond initiatives on the ballot if the stadium is included. But even before this, we could attend the bond committee meetings and protest. We can start a recall petition against the Mayor. We could call our respective City Councilmembers and tell them how we feel. Anyone else have any ideas?

  8. What?? No!! Why?? This seems so out of left field, but admittedly I haven’t been keeping up on all the news. I just don’t get it. Has Mr. Elmore been funding some of the politicians? Here’s my suggestion: let’s kill all the bond initiatives if this item is included. SMH!

  9. It’s probably already a done deal. Almost every team in the league the Missions play in has a newer stadium downtown. Team wants to capture more ticket sales through tourism. All the “other” teams don’t have the congestion we already do in SA. (Corpus, OKC, Springfield, Fayetteville.)

  10. San Antonio ranked #19 in responsible financial spending out of 75 city’s in the nation. That number just dropped for poor decision making to build a baseball stadium instead of bringing big business that creates higher output and higher paying jobs. Mayor Ivy Taylor is ridiculous.

  11. Yes, this is the best possible use for 75 million dollars for the greatest number of San Antonians. (Note: sarcasm.)

    Maybe the mayor and Wolff need to start reading actual economic studies and the plentiful evidence everywhere on what a waste of money these things are. And how maddening it is for citizens–taxpayers–to have to beg for sidewalks, functioning street lights, and infrastructure repair because all the money’s going to line the pockets of billionaires. Anyone check Elmore’s net worth? Bet he could find $75 million in his couch cushions.

    “Research on the issue has piled up during the past two decades. The general conclusion: A city’s economy doesn’t get a bump from bringing in a new sports team or building a stadium—and scarce economic-development dollars could be put to better use with other investments.

    “You’re not going to get income growth; you’re not going to get tax growth; you’re not going to get employment growth,” said Dennis Coates, an economist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who studies the economic effects of professional sports teams and facilities.”

    “As things stand, these stadiums are not so much publicly built as they are tributes to rich owners and a tiny contingent of fans levied on the backs of citizens and taxpayers.”

    Absolutely ridiculous.

  12. I guess that we don’t learn from our mistakes. Baseball, YES. A downtown stadium, NO. We had a major fight over the stadium. The proponents won. Now we have an that is expensive, underutilized and costly to maintain. Mayor Cisneros also push for a structure years ago. He got it. It was referred to the downtown pick elephant. It was torned down to make way for a hotel.

  13. the cost of the ballpark is a little high. it should be 35 to 50 million at 10k seats but they are proposing 17k? (phase 1). the ballpark needs to be ‘expandable’ to 35k to 40k seats (see Wrigley Fields renovation schemes) if and when we get a major league team/mlb expansion team (phase 2)…..(2 expansion teams are good as it will eliminate the wildcard)… it should be on riverwalk and be so unique it would draw, locals and visitors alike around the world. it would be an addition to the game of mlb ballparks and their coolness. San Antonio has so much baseball history….it would be a classic historic ballpark. there is no ‘standard’ ballpark’ field dimension and downtown parks always are a little ‘off and quirky’ in dimension so the field itself serves as the ’10th man’ (think Fenway). I nominate the ‘Pearl’ site at the museum/cps site….parking under highway and get to via trolleys and riverbarge (or walk). It will attract investment along St Marys and the other side of river at the Pearl (and bway).

  14. Any site along the San Antonio river is inappropriate for a baseball stadium. The “owner” of the new team is trying to speculate in the real estate market.

    Mark E. Kellmann, Architect, NCARB
    San Antonio, Texas

  15. The only ones who are gonna benifit are the contractors who are gonna build the stadium who turn fund her campain and send her to Hawaii on vacation.

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