San Antonio spends $18m to buy minor-league soccer stadium, could spend more if MLS comes

The San Antonio city council and Bexar County agreed yesterday on a deal to buy the city’s minor-league soccer stadium and lease it back to a new minor-league team to be owned by the Spurs NBA team so that eventually it can seek an MLS franchise and — you know what, this would probably be easier in bullet points:

  • The city and county will each put in $9 million to purchase Toyota Field, an 8,000-seat soccer stadium that was built in 2013 by a local nonprofit that runs a special-needs-accessible theme park next door. For the last two seasons, it’s been home to the Scorpions NASL franchise.
  • The city and county agreed to a 20-year lease to rent the stadium for $100,000 a year to San Antonio F.C., a new Spurs-owned team that will, at least initially, play in the USL, a different minor soccer league that (kinda sorta, depending on who you ask) competes with the NASL to be considered the second-tier league behind MLS.
  • Eventually, the Spurs will try to obtain an MLS franchise. If this transpires, a countywide election would be held, not sooner than November 2017, to raise money for stadium upgrades. If an MLS team never arrives, the Spurs will eventually be on the hook for as much as $1 million a year in penalties.
  • The Scorpions and Spurs have a press conference scheduled for today to explain what exactly happens to the existing team.

On the face of it, this looks like a horrible deal for the city and county: In exchange for $18 million in cash, the public gets a pittance in rent (a little over $1 million total in present value), plus the possibility of maybe $3-4 million more in present value from the penalty clause. (Presumably the stadium will be exempt from property tax as well, though since it was owned by a nonprofit it didn’t pay any before, either.) If MLS does come, it gets even worse, since suddenly taxpayers would be on the hook as well for upgrades to expand the stadium to MLS capacity, which could easily amount to $100 million or more.

I guess you could argue that this is the price San Antonio needs to pay to get a chance at an MLS team — except that it’s way, way more than the price being paid by Orlando and probably Minnesota and a whole bunch of other MLS expansion cities, so what up, San Antonio?

3 comments on “San Antonio spends $18m to buy minor-league soccer stadium, could spend more if MLS comes

  1. You would think, given the current sports ‘microaggression’/conventional wisdom of the essential nature of “appealing to Latinos” in today’s soccer market, that MLS would actually work a little harder to get stadiums in San Antonio and Miami, and maybe even pay money for the privilege.

    Of course, looking at the past wreckage from the Florida/Texas/California markets, maybe its not such a slam-dunks strategy.

  2. @Gdub – San Antonio maybe. Miami no, considering there are open questions on whether or not the city will even exist in its current form in 10-15 years, building anything there is a fools errand at this point.