Last week, officials from the Arena Football League notified the San Antonio Talons they won’t be playing in 2015. The Talons have never had solid financial footing since their move from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to San Antonio in 2011. Although the Talons won a division title in 2012, and narrowly missed the postseason the following year, long-term ownership has been in question. Last December, the league took over the Talons’ operations and announced it was seeking a new owner after it was revealed that then-owner David Lynd, a local businessman, had accrued unpaid debts to vendors and creditors. This past season, the Talons finished 3-15 overall and have seen their home crowds at the Alamodome diminish in size. Spurs Sports and Entertainment, the Spurs’ parent company, and some other local businessmen had shown interest in buying the Talons, but nothing firm has been realized.
Nobody will speculate whether the Talons will return in 2016 in some capacity, but their troubled existence does add to a pockmarked history for minor league/semi-pro sports in San Antonio. Many football teams – the Gunslingers, Toros, Texans, Riders – have come and gone quickly in the Alamo City. It comes at a time when some local business and political leaders and sports fans feel that the NFL’s Oakland Raiders seriously have eyes for the Alamo City as their potential next home. Recently, Mike Sawaya, the city’s director of Convention, Sports, and Entertainment Facilities, said the city has teamed with the Raiders to hire a sports industry consultant who is polling local residents about a potential relocation. An email poll has already been sent randomly to 50,000 people who have attended events at the Alamodome, asking questions about the purchase of season tickets, ticket prices, and other issues. The survey includes the question: “Would you support the Raiders were they to move to San Antonio?” The poll will also reach beyond people who are on the Alamodome’s mailing list, and involve potential fans from the Austin area.
Speculation is rampant that the Raiders could be moving to San Antonio, the nation’s seventh-largest city, as Raiders ownership attempts to talk with Oakland and California state officials about what it will take for the Raiders to stay in the bay area. According to many sports pundits, it would take a commitment from officials in Oakland – or Los Angeles, the Raiders’ previous home after their first stint in Oakland – to build a new football-exclusive stadium to persuade the Raiders to stay close to the West Coast. Sports and political pundits in San Antonio have discussed online and talk radio about the feasibility of improving the Alamodome, built in the early 1990s, or building a brand new football-exclusive venue to help lure the Raiders to South Texas. Such pundits believe other factors will have to favor San Antonio and South Texas before the Raiders could commit to coming here, including diverse corporate interests, transportation, media market side, and whether enough local NFL fans – Dallas Cowboys or Houston Texans – will buy into fully following a new or relocated San Antonio team.
In July, San Antonio officials wooed Raiders owner Mark Davis and other team officials locally. The Raiders’ lease at O.co Coliseum in Oakland expires at this season’s end. The Raiders’ location fate may also depend on what happens with two other NFL franchises. The St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers each face the end of their respective current home lease in the next year to two. The San Antonio Talons, the local Arena Football League team currently playing at the Alamodome, won’t be playing in 2015. While the Talons’ fate is unknown, San Antonio leaders are considering what is feasible to help lure the Oakland Raiders, or some other NFL franchise, to the Alamo City.
Officials with the Alamodome will also be presenting plans and budgets for a $50 million renovation to the dome to the City Council in the coming weeks. These improvements, to include upgraded concourses, concessions, score board, and plaza level would be contingent on San Antonio securing a NCAA Final Four Tournament for 2018, 2019, or 2020. These improvements are speculated to extend the life of the dome an additional 10-20 years.