San Antonio is seeking a firm to conduct an assessment on its viability for professional sports, which could end up setting the tone for discussions of a new ballpark.
The idea of building a new ballpark in San Antonio is one that has been kicked around for a few years, with San Antonio Missions (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) owner Elmore Sports Group seeking a long-term replacement for Wolff Stadium. The aging condition of Wolff Stadium has prompted some calls for a new ballpark in or closer to downtown San Antonio, especially now that the city has secured a higher level of baseball with the arrival of the former Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Thus far, however, city officials have not committed to a new ballpark and appear to want a closer analysis of the market’s future possibilities in professional sports. A request for proposals (RFP) issued on April 30 calls for prospective firms to evaluate the market as a landing spot for a professional sports franchise and “identify short-and long-term potential opportunities in professional sports, and support and advise on a strategic plan.” The RFP is not specific to one sport, and what it could mean for ballpark discussions remains to be seen. While the Missions are still seeking a replacement for Wolff Stadium, some in the city seem to be harboring hopes for a potential Major League Baseball expansion franchise. More from KTSA:
Major League Baseball has been in the news for the past year or so discussing the possibility of future expansion. Last year, commissioner Rob Manfred had mentioned cities that could be home to an expansion franchise, including Portland, Montreal, a city in Mexico (likely Monterrey or Mexico City), Vancouver — and San Antonio when he met with local business leaders….
It is not immediately clear what the city plans to do with this assessment, assuming it finds a firm willing to bid and conduct it. It could be used for fact finding for the city’s own planning or economic development purposes. It could also lay the foundation for either more immediate sports facilities plans — like a new stadium for the AAA level San Antonio Missions, whose current stadium would be described generously as a facility not suitable for AAA play — a “short-term” opportunity as the RFP seeks or another grand strategy push for a team like it did with the MLS. It would be assumed if it is to consider a new baseball stadium, the city would want to know how likely it would be for it to attract an MLB team before deciding what it wants to do with or for the Missions.
Any consideration of MLB would have to come with the recognition that there are plenty of uncertainties about timing. While Manfred has openly discussed his interest in potential expansion to 32 teams, the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays both have pressing facility situations that the league wants to resolve before adding more franchises. Neither the A’s nor Rays are publicly expressing interest in a move, as the A’s are making progress on a proposed ballpark at Oakland’s Howard Terminal while the Rays are locked into a lease for Tropicana Field that runs through 2027 and have not ruled out the idea of trying to find a solution for a new ballpark in St. Petersburg. It is therefore possible, if not likely, that prospective expansion will be the subject of speculation for the next few years until an actual process could get underway.
For backers of an MiLB ballpark, the concern at that point could become whether San Antonio officials are willing to freeze discussions with the Missions in hopes of holding out for MLB. San Antonio has also been dealing with multiple sports facilities questions, and it seems likely that any report will consider those issues along with a new ballpark. A proposal for an MLS expansion squad at an expanded Toyota Field has come into doubt with plans for an Austin team and stadium moving forward, as MLS officials have indicated that an Austin/San Antonio rivalry is not in the cards. Additionally, the city’s long-held NFL ambitions are still very much in play, making the league a possible subject of any assessment of the market.
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