The San Antonio Spurs have been outright robbing city hall for several decades now.
In the early 1990s, the San Antonio Spurs wanted a new arena. In 1993, the city built them one that cost about $250 million dollars. 100% of which was paid for by local taxpayers. But the Spurs didn’t like that arena, so just six years after it was built, the Spurs got a referendum put up asking for taxpayers to pay another $200 million for yet another arena. It passed, and the new arena was built in 2002.
After five years, does anyone want to take a guess what is coming?
“Last week an article in San Antonio explained that the team is asking for more than $100 million new tax revenues to upgrade their five-year-old building” – ESPN.com, 09/12/07
The Spurs not only demanded roughly $164 million to upgrade their arena, they claimed that without this money, they wouldn’t be able to “pay the player salaries”. The team even had a way of funding their next arena. Just extend the venue tax that helped fund the construction of the arena. It was about to expire in a few years and by extending it, the team would have a significant amount of taxpayer money available to them for arena upgrades.
The team was barely handing on. It was close to complete collapse. Sure, the team was worth $350 million in 2007 (and today it is 2.16 billion). And nevermind that the owner himself was worth more than $100 million in 2007.
What we need to look at is whether the team has awesome stuff according to the arena GM:
“The arena’s general manager John Sparks recently said existing revenues were not enough to pay for the ‘wow’ stuff, the great things we need to have” – San Antonio Express-News, 08/29/07
But even that is not enough. We all enjoy going to sports games and seeing the American flag with the anthem playing. Right? The Spurs do too because it means additional money for themselves.
“Taxpayer-funded ‘paid patriotism’ and perks at Spurs games between 2012 and 2014 came at a cost of $26,666 dollars to the taxpayer” – MySanAntonio.com, 11/04/15
Hopefully, after all of this funding for the arena, did the city see any payoff with new development around the arena? Of course not. As one local commissioner admitted, “AT&T Center has not seen the expansion people expected”. Don’t worry too much, as “growth has been expected in the area for years”. I am confident that is right around the corner.
Then last week, the Spurs won the NBA Draft Lottery and will be picking 1st overall. The odds are good that they will select a French basketball star named Victor Wembanyama. Yet, even with this news, both San Antonio fans, politicians, and media seem scared that getting this star will force the team to ask for YET ANOTHER ARENA.
News 4 San Antonio says it is only a matter of time now…
“Although Wembanyama’s addition will no doubt energize this eastside community, the AT&T Center is a twenty-year-old building, and it’s only a matter of time before San Antonio will need to discuss a new downtown arena” – News4SanAntonio.com, 05/17/23
The San Antonio Express-News says the team may now move to Austin!
“But the arrival of Wembanyama comes at a pivotal moment for the city’s lone major league franchise … There is palpable community concern that the team will eventually move to Austin, where it played two games last season” – San Antonio Express-News, 05/17/23
The Express-News article above notes that one of the reasons for the Spurs to stay put is because of the $100 million dollars that they just put down for a $500 million dollar practice facility that is being built right now. Even this facility needed several cities to kick in almost $40 million dollars. The rest of the finances are still unknown.
One local commissioner is going all out to help the team, even when the team isn’t asking for anything.
“(Commissioner) Calvert says in order for the area around the AT&T Center to grow, the county, city, and the Spurs have to come to an agreement. He says it’s still not clear what the Spurs want for the area” – News4SanAntonio.com, 05/17/23
And so, what should the city do? According to the local newspaper, they need to “significantly invest in economic development” around the AT&T Center. Invest in the same way that the city invested in the Alamodome. This week, a study was released claiming that the Alamodome in San Antonio has “generated $107 million in revenue for the city” over the last three decades. That is great! How much did it cost to build and keep updated? Almost $400 million.