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San Antonio, Elmore debate new Triple-A ballpark

San Antonio Missions 2015There’s no doubt San Antonio is a Triple-A city, but city leaders say they’re being stymied in their efforts to bring in a team and build a new downtown ballpark by San Antonio Missions (Class AA; Texas League) owner Dave Elmore.

This is not a new issue: Back in 2012 talk at the Baseball Winter Meetings included a call for an upgradeable San Antonio ballpark housing Triple-A ball. The current issue, it seems, is one of control. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff — for whom Wolff Stadium is named and a major player in local politics — says efforts are proceeding both in terms of financing a new downtown ballpark and bringing in a Triple-A Pacific Coast League team, while also decrying Elmore for not wanting to play ball with the county. Not so fast, says Elmore, who controls MiLB rights to San Antonio; he says the money’s not there and neither is a Triple-A team:

“[Elmore] says he’s interested, but he hasn’t demonstrated it,” said Wolff, who has been spearheading local plans on the stadium and affiliation upgrades. “It’s been very frustrating.”…

“I respect [Wolff],” said Elmore, who has owned the Missions — founded in 1888 — for nearly 30 years. “Just because Nelson says something doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

“So many times people say they’re going to do something and don’t. You have to be able to pay for (a new stadium). I’m not sure the money’s there for it.”

There are basically three issues here. The first is the availability of a Pacific Coast League team. That’s not an issue: it’s no secret the New Orleans Zephyrs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are on the market and available for a move. The second is whether Elmore, a veteran operator with multiple teams at multiple levels, wants to leave the San Antonio market; Elmore Sports also owns the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and MiLB rules bars multiple team ownership in any given league. So if a Triple-A team comes to San Antonio, Elmore’s territorial rights need to be addressed (though New Orleans as a consolation market may not be the worst thing either for Elmore or the Texas League). And we know of other owners who have privately expressed interest in San Antonio as a Triple-A market. Complicating matters: the presence of MLB teams who wouldn’t mind adding media rights to the San Antonio market (yeah, we’re looking at you, Rangers).

The third issue, of course, is public money for a new ballpark. We’ll defer to Judge Wolff on that subject, but he says there could be money available for a new $50-million facility.

There’s no doubt San Antonio is a Triple-A market, and Judge Wolff hasn’t been shy about pushing a new downtown ballpark and an upgrade in play — if El Paso and Austin are Triple-A markets, there’s no doubt San Antonio is as well. But Elmore is right: talk is cheap. Really, there’s only one way to break this impasse: Judge Wolff and the city need to show the money before any serious talks can take place.

RELATED STORIES: Nelson Wolff: San Antonio needs new downtown ballpark; San Antonio looking at AAA ball, upgradeable ballpark; Rangers to host exhibition game at Alamodome; New San Antonio ballpark in play

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