San Antonio to Tackle Infrastructure Needs After Securing 2025 Final Four

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The display at the intersection of E. César E. Chávez Boulevard and the Interstate 37 access road announces the return of the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in 2025.

City officials and community leaders shifted nervously in their seats and stances Monday afternoon at the Alamodome when the first city announced as a future host of the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four was Houston for 2023.

Would the NCAA pick two Texas cities with just four events up for grabs?

The nervousness lasted only a few minutes and was relieved with a resounding cheer worthy of a stadium when San Antonio was picked to host the 2025 Final Four just three months after successfully hosting the event this year.

“Viva San Antonio!” Mayor Ron Nirenberg shouted a few minutes later at the start of his press conference remarks.

Houston (2023), Phoenix (2024), and Indianapolis (2026) joined San Antonio in celebrating on Monday. The news was not so good for Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, and Los Angeles, which were not selected.

The biggest selling point for San Antonio, officials said, was the success of the 2018 Final Four here, which featured 37,585 hotel room nights, 2,206 credentialed media, and more than 200,000 attendees at events held outside the Alamodome over four days. One study projected the city would reap $185 million in economic impact from the Final Four this year.

“We are thrilled for the cities of Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and Indianapolis,” which “have hosted the event with overwhelming success in recent years, and yet all of them approached the bid process with an unassuming energy,”said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball. “We look forward to bringing the NCAA’s marquee championship back to those locations.”

What comes next, said Nirenberg and others such as City Manager Sheryl Sculley, is ensuring that the city evolves and improves so it continues to win big events like this and execute hosting duties well.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg addresses the audience.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Mayor Ron Nirenberg speaks at a press conference ahead of the 2018 Final Four.

At the top of that list is exploring a new location for the Music Fest, which has become a popular part of the Final Four weekend. Approximately 145,000 fans attended Music Fest this year in San Antonio, seeing acts such as Maroon 5 and Imagine Dragons at Hemisfair. However, planned upgrades at the park will reduce it in size, and Jenny Carnes, executive director of the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee, said it would no longer be large enough unless the NCAA made exceptions, which is possible.

Sculley said one possible option for the Music Fest next time is the downtown campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio on the near West Side, and the First Tee driving range area off U.S. Highway 281 about two miles from downtown might also work.

“We will only continue to get better,” Sculley said. With the planned development at Hemisfair, construction of new hotels, and the forthcoming renovations at Alamo Plaza, she said, “we know that we’ll be going from the best Final Four host city to an even better one in 2025.”

Nirenberg called Monday’s big win a crowning achievement for the Alamodome, showing there is still plenty of life in the 25-year-old building. But now addressing issues known to be a concern to the NCAA – and doing it soon – has also become a priority.

The City and other entities such as the Alamo Bowl combined to spend $65.5 million on major stadium renovations that were completed earlier this year. Nirenberg said the next round of improvements will not cost as much. Those upgrades are expected to include adding 18 more suites to reach the NCAA minimum of 70, improving building access and seating options for those with disabilities, upgrading or adding elevators and escalators, and improving the uppermost concourse to provide parity with the recently updated plaza level.

San Antonio is working with Populous, an architectural design firm that regularly partners with the NCAA, to study what improvements the Alamodome needs to meet NCAA specifications for an event nearly seven years away. Once that report is finished it will be presented to City Council for approval. No property taxes or revenues of the City’s general fund would be used for the improvements, Nirenberg and Patricia Muzquiz Cantor, director of the Convention and Sports Facilities Department, said.

Officials have already said they plan to pay for new upgrades with funds from the Community and Visitor Facilities Fund, which gets its revenue from operations at the Alamodome and Convention Center and a portion of the Hotel Occupancy Tax.

A lot can happen in seven years, including the cost of construction and renovation possibly rising, which is why Nirenberg said he would be in favor of beginning the next round of Alamodome renovations as soon as they fit into the schedule of the facility with the least disruption to scheduled events as possible. The last Alamodome renovations were projected to cost the city $41 million, but they ended up costing $65.5 million, according to Muzquiz Cantor. She said the costs escalated mostly because of the rising expense of construction in those few years.

“If we’re going to be upgrading this facility for known events, sooner than later is always better,” said Nirenberg, who was intimately involved in the bid process for the event, even joining a 10-member group that traveled to Boston last week to give the city’s pitch to the NCAA. Representatives from UTSA and the University of the Incarnate Word also participated. The two schools will serve as co-hosts in 2025 now that UIW has moved to Division I.

San Antonio is also in the midst of the bid process for the women’s Final Four in 2021. The NCAA will announce the winner of that bid in October. Carnes said she believes Monday’s success would only help in terms of winning the women’s bid because it’s a signal that the NCAA already sees San Antonio as a solid option.

“The footprint of downtown San Antonio continues to be one of the most walkable and liveable in the United States,” Nirenberg said, “which is why San Antonio continues to be such an attractive location for the Final Four and other events like this.”

15 thoughts on “San Antonio to Tackle Infrastructure Needs After Securing 2025 Final Four

  1. What is the long-term plan for the building? Younger stadiums are being torn down in other cities. I’m not saying we are at that point, but at some point the Alamodome will be too much to overcome, and the band aids won’t be big enough. I don’t believe the Alamodome will host another Final Four after 2025.

  2. So San Antonio is building a world class urban park in the middle of downtown and there isn’t enough green space at the “world class park” to host a concert? I went to the NCAA music fest this year and it’s footprint wasn’t that large.

    • Much of that space used for the fest in April will be covered with mid and high rise buildings. The amount of green space aka Civic Park will be greatly reduced from what we saw at the Final Four.

  3. It is sad that corporate greed has taken over green space. There could be so much use for a venue like that downtown. The original plans for the park had it as a large green space from Alamo Street to the Riverwalk. It seems that the group that was to build this great park sold out.

    The question is will the idea that everything was walkable for the past NCAA Tournament be a deterrent for people if the music venue is miles away? I think it would and diminishes the experience.

    • The park was always supposed to be temporary. There is corporate greed going on. What does suck are the buildings that going up look like suburban BS instead of something iconic.

  4. The proposed sites for the music festival are a negative in relation to what made this year’s Final Four a success. Having everything close together (within walking distance) is the key. In general, people attending the Final Four games will not be driving and parking at the stadium. Therefore, a large portion of the stadium parking lot should be considered for the music festival. They could keep maybe 1/4 of the lot for necessary team bus parking and have the music festival on the rest of it. For those who do need to drive and attend the game, use the Alamo Stadium parking lot for attendees by providing free shuttle buses from there. (Note: Only a small portion of the Alamo Stadium parking lot was used for volunteer parking for the recent Final Four. There was still plenty of space on the northwestern and northern areas of the lots. The same shuttle buses, increased in number before and after games with the destination for the extra buses being the bus center at the Alamodome, could be used.

  5. I am very excited that the Final Four is coming back to San Antonio! Kudos to all that made this successful bid happen. I fail to see how $65 million dollars is a “band aid”, really? The Alamodome put this city on the map and additional upgrades will keep us on the national and international stage. Lets not be a wet blanket on this announcement…we will make all of the necessary upgrades (suites, accessibility, elevators and corridor expansion) needed to stay in the NCAA rotation., period. Also, because most people fly in for the Final Four, it is very possible to use parking lot B&C for the big party outside the Alamodome. It would be an excellent spot on the Alamodome property to host the party and keep everyone near the :hotels, Riverwalk and it would give a major boost to the entertainment and restaurants on the near Eastside. We have SEVEN YEARS to get ready for the biggests event in America, except for the Super Bowl! We are on the move in this great city! Be positive…we beat out Los Angeles and Dallas/Ft. Worth for this prize!

    • I am thankful that good things continue to happen with Ron as our mayor. I too am proud that you are the leader we need and bringing us the city we deserve.

  6. I hate to bring up another subject, but there was talk of moving the Institute of Texas Cultures and replacing it with a AAA baseball venue. Would that be big enough for the music festival? Is the AAA baseball venue still happening?

    • You make an excellent point. In fact there are rumors of MLB considering expansion too. An MLB ballpark at the base of The Tower of the Americas connected to Hemisfair would be a great location. That solves the concert location as well.

    • A downtown is a city’s identity. It’s backwards thinking to put major events like this outside of the urban core.

  7. What about the city buying the Lone Star Brewery and turning that into a proper concert venue. It does have a reasonable proximity to the Alamo Dome and it is kinda just sitting there doing nothing since that deal with Aqualand fell through.

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