MLS bid could require public money for stadium expansion

SUB: Spurs Sports & Entertainment gunning for 1 of 12 MLS spots

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - After one season in the soccer business, Spurs Sports & Entertainment is one of 12 teams making its bid for four MLS spots.

SS&E, which owns the minor league San Antonio FC franchise, announced its bid for a major league franchise, which was the goal behind the partnership between the Spurs, the city and the county.

"What they're going to do, who they're going to pick, I don't know," said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. "But we're in the game, and we'll see where it leads."

If it leads to the big time, it will also lead to big bucks

The expansion fee, which would be paid after the team is selected, has been reported to be between $150 and $200 million. That fee would be on the Spurs organization to pay.

There's another cost to consider. To make the city and county-owned, Toyota Field meet MLS standards would require at least another 10,000 seats beyond its current 8,400-person capacity.

Wolff guessed the stadium expansion project, which he said would also need more amenities, could end up in the area of $100 million.

He called it a "very good bargain" for "the sport of the future."

"You want to build an NFL stadium? They talk about that? Talk about $2 billion," Wolff said.

Using public money for a stadium expansion would require a public vote, and a city spokeswoman it is yet to be determined how the costs would be divvied up between the city, county and SS&E.

Wolff said the county could pay for its end without a tax increase. The city said it can't tell without a budget for the project.

For soccer fans in San Antonio, going pro is what they've waited for.

"We see that the popularity of soccer in San Antonio continues to rise, with our diverse population we're an ideal city," said James Hope, a board member of MLS In San Antonio and a past president of the Crocketteers supporters group.

While the SAFC averaged an attendance of 6,170 during their first season, the fourth-highest in the 30-team United Soccer League, Hope believes those numbers will increase in 2017.

"From what we've talked with to San Antonio FC, you’re going to see a lot more people coming down from Austin and such, that are going to be part of this excitement," Hope said.

He also believes the city stacks up well against its competition for the four spots.

"Many have projects and ideas. They have plans," Hope said. "We have a stadium that is ready to be upgraded."

A SAFC spokesman said MLS might not announce the first two of the four expansion teams until the end of the year.

In the meantime, SAFC players arrived in San Antonio Thursday ahead of player orientation and training camp next week. The season starts March 26 in an away game against the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros.

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