San Antonio's quest for a second professional sports franchise inched closer toward reality Tuesday morning when Spurs Sports and Entertainment finalized a deal with Bexar County and the city where it will operate a United Soccer League franchise in Toyota Field in 2016.
The USL is the largest professional soccer league in the country, and the league is full of independent and MSL-owned franchises, according to a Spurs Sports and Entertainment press release, which states that five of the last seven new MLS franchises played in the USL.
Bexar County and the City of San Antonio paid San Antonio Scorpions owner and philanthropist Gordon Hartman $9 million apiece, and Spurs Sports and Entertainment donated $3 million to Morgan's Wonderland — a special needs theme park — and agreed to a 20-year lease to operate Toyota Field.
Hartman says in a press release that when Soccer for a Cause was created in 2010, with the intention to field a professional North American Soccer League team, there was a vision.
"Our goal was to field a team that would compete for championships while supporting those with special needs via a unique, unprecedented relationship where all net profits from the Scorpions and S.T.A.R. Soccer Complex were given directly to non-profit Morgan's Wonderland, the world's only fully accessible theme park. With two regular season trophies, an NASL championship in 2014, a beautiful soccer-specific stadium, and over $1,000,000 raised for Morgan's Wonderland to benefit special-needs individuals, I'm proud to say that we've been successful," Hartman says.
Rick Pych, Spurs Sports & Entertainment president of business operations, says the $21 million deal wouldn't be possible without the city and county's support.
“We are very excited to continue the growth of soccer in San Antonio, and we plan to operate a USL franchise as part of a proven path to Major League Soccer. We look forward to bringing the highest level of soccer to San Antonio,” Pych says in a press release.
Mayor Ivy R. Taylor says the lease agreement means significant progress is being made toward a shared goal.
“The City and County’s purchase of Toyota Field is the first step toward bringing a Major League Soccer team to San Antonio,” Taylor says. “Spurs Sports & Entertainment is recognized as one of the best professional sports businesses and we are fortunate to have them as a partner in this effort."
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said the deal is a historic step.
“Through this unique partnership with the City of San Antonio, we are proving we are ready to support a professional team representing the most popular sport in the world,” Wolff says.