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Debate continues over location of new Missions ballpark

San Antonio business and community leaders continue to debate possible locations for a new Missions ballpark, with the discussion expanding to once again include the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Two potential sites have been discussed for a new San Antonio Missions (Double-A; Texas League) ballpark, including a downtown location near the San Pedro Creek area that would be part of urban development. Also mentioned is the former Lone Star Brewery site south of downtown, a more logistically challenging site. (With little development spinoff possible for Wolff Stadium, upgrading that facility isn’t under consideration.)

Judge Nelson Wolff, a prime political player, is throwing a few twists in the Missions ballpark saga, once again bringing UTSA into the discussion and pushing the idea of a shared ballpark, arguing it would attract additional political support to any potential public financing. But the needs of a MiLB team–particularly one that has the potential of moving to Triple-A with the right facility–are far different than the needs of a Division I program on the rise. For an ambitious college program, the emphasis is less on the actual ballpark and more on the training facilities used to attract top-notch athletes. And while MLB has upgraded MiLB facility standards to include player amenities like better training rooms and food prep, state-of-the-art college baseball facilities exceed these standards in terms of training, study and nutritional areas. You are basically talking two different facility needs here.

And while including UTSA may be a political plus when it comes to public financing of a new facility, it may be a minus when it comes to the Missions, Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball. In general, MiLB officials frown upon the idea of a MiLB team sharing a facility with a college baseball program. Yes, there are a few instances where it happens–the Daytona Tortugas (Single-A; Florida State League) share Jackie Robinson Ballpark with Bethune-Cookman–but with the elimination of the short-season leagues, you don’t see it popping up too often as a potential development. With USTA moving to the American Athletic Conference from Conference USA for the 2023-2024 season, the school is looking at upgraded facilities–and state-of-the-art on the college level is a whole lot different than what’s expected on the pro level.

The UTSA football team already plays at the Alamodome, and Wolff is pushing for a new ballpark to be shared by the Missions and UTSA as a way to upgrade the baseball program. MiLB is likely to object to any such deal unless the Missions have total control over facility scheduling and receive the vast majority of revenues, and we’re guessing no one associated with MiLB has any inclination toward funding anything on the college side. UTSA has shown a willingness to share a new downtown ballpark with the Missions, but the school is now balking at such a plan:

“If there was something to the north, obviously, that has a better chance for our participation and collaboration,” UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said.

While playing six college football games in the Alamodome has its advantages for a university not in position currently to build a stadium closer to campus, playing a full baseball schedule downtown would create logistical challenges for the Roadrunners….

“There’s a very strong effort downtown. And obviously, there’s a second effort that could be important that involves the North Side,” Eighmy said. “We’re just letting the process work its way through. We are available, depending on what gets worked out.”

The obvious solution is for UTSA to develop its own on-campus home for the Roadrunners baseball program with state-of-the-art training facilities and play a few select high-profile series at a new downtown Missions ballpark capable of driving additional development.

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