It’s been a few weeks since San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor announced she would be willing to use a considerable amount of political capital to support the development of a downtown stadium to host AAA baseball. Simultaneously, San Antonio FC, the city’s new United Soccer League club, has begun competitive play with hopes that San Antonio can lure a Major League Soccer franchise. With all this resurgent talk about whether San Antonio could and should diversify its professional sports portfolio, more sports pundits are offering their commentary.
So far, many readers commenting on local media reports say they can support the long-term effort to attract the MLS’ attention. The idea there is, with the city and Bexar County buying Toyota Field and leasing it to Spurs Sports and Entertainment, the MLS would see a show of strength and credibility in such a public/private partnership. At the same time, people who have supported the San Antonio Scorpions, the North American Soccer League franchise, are hoping to provide a similar level of visibility, if not higher, for the Spurs-supported San Antonio FC club. The latter club is independent yet competing with teams affiliated with Major League Soccer franchises.
The MLS last month offered its official, sobering approach to future expansion, as league officials said St. Louis and Sacramento are the top candidates for the next round of expansion, with San Antonio, Austin and three other cities further down the list of priority. MLS plans to grow from 20 to 28 teams within a few years. It has been noted in other media reports that expanding Toyota Field from its current 8,000-plus capacity would be a must to luring an official MLS franchise to town. Recently, the Guardian also took issue with San Antonio’s metropolitan market size; residents’ average total income; the city’s position in relation to the MLS clubs in Dallas and Houston, and whether the city can find enough funds to expand the stadium and pay the expansion fee if all of its hopes come to fruition.
Then there’s San Antonio’s hope to reach the highest level of minor league baseball. Many local officials have publicly backed the way the city is going about trying to attract MLS’ attention. A significant number of readers commenting on local media reports have criticized San Antonio’s AAA baseball aspirations. Sports talk show hosts such as Geoff Sheen of Ticket 760 have said San Antonio is in a position to go straight to the top and try to be in line for any future Major League Baseball expansion rather than settle for AAA baseball. Taylor made her announcement alongside David Elmore, of Elmore Sports Group, which owns the double-A San Antonio Missions. The city has had double A baseball for decades with different MLB affiliations. Experts with local collegiate and pro athletics spoke on a panel discussion in late April, saying San Antonio currently does not have enough consistent fan support to lure an MLB franchise, and that the city is playing it safe by going after AAA baseball. According to local officials, a new downtown-area baseball stadium for triple AAA-level competition would cost $75 million. The public would have a say in that in the form of a vote. City staff is expected to make recommendations this summer on a potential location for a stadium and how that could be funded, potentially in the 2017 Bond. Those commenting on local media reports say the city should first give higher priority to using such money on infrastructure or other pressing public needs. Other critics of publicly funded large sports venues say San Antonio has not done well to spark needed economic development around such facilities, such as the cases with Wolff Stadium and AT&T Center.