Last week, following a tense hearing, the Bexar County Commission voted 3-2 in favor of a limited version of the Spurs’ request to play up to four home games away from the AT&T Center for the next two seasons. The idea was to play two games at the new Moody Center in Austin, one in the Alamodome, and one in Mexico City, but under the new agreement, the Spurs will just get two “away” homes in one season since they have a non-relocation agreement that prohibits them from playing more than two of their 41 regular season home games away from the arena in any one season.
On the surface, none of this seems like a big deal as the Spurs are simply looking to expand their market appeal and fanbase. The Spurs have always had a Latin American following that grew even more during the Manu Ginobili era, and Austin not only houses the Spurs’ G League affiliate, but it’s part of the Spurs sports market that will only continue to grow as the two cities slowly merge into what is predicted to be one metropolitan area in the coming decades.
However, San Antonians are very protective of their lone professional sports team, and whenever something comes up that triggers the slightest idea that the Spurs might relocate — be it a slight change in ownership, staff turnover, or whatever — things tend to get a little out of hand, and the idea of taking home games beyond the AT&T Center was one of them.
As a result, Chairman of Spurs Sports & Entertainment Peter J. Holt has released a statement assuring fans that the Spurs are in San Antonio to stay:
Dear San Antonio,
I love you. I love this city. A big city with a casual small-town feel and a GREAT basketball team. I want to reassure you that the Spurs are in San Antonio to stay.
I love the charreadas, the big green trees and watching my four children play at the splash pad at Yanaguana. I love eating the best chicken in the world at Pollos Asados Los Nortenos on Rigsby near my office, or sharing breakfast tacos with friends (yes, WE do have the best tacos).
I was raised in San Antonio and this city has helped define the foundation of the Spurs. The Spurs are as much a part of San Antonio as San Antonio is a part of the Spurs.
I was 12 years old when we won our first championship in 1999. My wife has early memories running behind the curtains at the Alamodome to get a David Robinson bobblehead. My children love to pull the tail of the Coyote, the same way I did as a child.
Everywhere I go in San Antonio, I love hearing stories of people’s memories and connections to our team. Your stories and your ties to our Spurs have helped shape who I am and who we are as a city. We will keep making memories, together, inside of Bexar County.
My family became involved in the Spurs in the 90s because there was a real threat that the team would be moved. We would not let that happen then and we will not let that happen now. There is no other team in the NBA like the Spurs and no other home like San Antonio. The military presence, the downtown honkers, the Salesian sisters who pray during games, the Baseline Bums – these are the San Antonio Spurs. The Alamo, the Missions, the Pearl, the Riverwalk, Fiesta – these are the San Antonio Spurs.
There are no Spurs without the city and the people of San Antonio. Your team, our team, together we are the silver and black. Spurs fans – we are here to stay, Por Vida.
While I am personally not someone who was triggered into thinking the Spurs might be one the move over this decision, I get why it made fans nervous, so hopefully this puts some minds at ease. For starters, the Spurs have already broken ground on a brand new, state-of-the-art, $510 million training facility in northwest San Antonio. Would they be doing this if they had any plans of leaving town? Highly unlikely.
Another way to look at this move for a few games outside San Antonio is simply as a financial one. While the county owns the AT&T Center, many fans have wanted to see the Spurs build their own arena in a more ideal location. While that’s a lot to ask — only 7.5 NBA teams own their arenas instead of renting, with the .5 begin the Bulls, who have 50% property rights — it would have to start with their own money and not borrowing from the city or county, and what better way to do that than secure a larger fanbase?
In the end, the uproar over playing a few games away from the AT&T Center triggered an overreaction, even if it was understandable. Hopefully Holt’s message, as well as the county commission showing it has its thumb on this whole thing and won’t let the Spurs go beyond their contractual agreements, puts it all to rest.