Thursday, December 17, 2015

Toyota Field's Future Continues to Come Into Focus

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 12:25 PM

Toyota Field is closer to changing hands. - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Toyota Field is closer to changing hands.
Toyota Field took another step toward changing hands, and San Antonio perhaps came a smidge closer to landing a Major League Soccer team today with City Council unanimously approving a suite of actions that would allow it to pay $9 million for joint ownership of the stadium.

Together with Bexar County and Spurs Sports and Entertainment, the city announced in November that the framework of a deal to sell the stadium for $21 million had been agreed to with local developer and philanthropist Gordon Hartman. The two municipal entities will lease the stadium to the Spurs for $100,000 a year for 20 years as the group works to lure an MLS franchise.

If they're successful, the 8,000-seat stadium will have to be expanded. Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras explained that the city and county would hold a joint election to allocate funds to add seats to the stadium.

It’s unknown how much the expansion would cost. Previous estimates put the figure between $38 million and $45 million for an additional 10,000 seats, though the expansion could exceed that, Contreras said.

City Manager Sheryl Sculley also addressed concerns about the source of the $9 million from the city. That money won’t come from the general fund — which is used for expenditures such as code enforcement, parks and animal care services — but from another pot of money earmarked for capital improvements to city property such as the Convention Center and the Alamodome. 

City Council members enthusiastically endorsed the deal. Some, such as Councilmember Rey Saldana, pointed out that not only was it a win for the city's growing soccer fan base, but also for Morgan's Wonderland, the amusement park for children with special needs founded by Hartman. All of the $21 million generated by the stadium's sale will benefit Hartman's foundation, which will soon begin construction of a waterpark at the 4-acre park site.

At Toyota Field, the plan is for the Spurs group to put together a United Soccer League team, the third tier of pro soccer in North America. If the remaining details of the lease agreement are ironed out in time, the as-yet-unnamed team will begin its season in March 2015, according to Bobby Perez, the vice president general counsel corporate relations for ‎Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

Perez said that in addition to the 15 USL home games, his group also plans to host concerts, MLS friendlies and Mexican soccer clubs at the field. Because of the tight timeline, the stadium probably won’t host events beyond this coming season, but could be in store for 2017.

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