SAN ANTONIO, Texas – After losing a bid to host the college football national championship on Wednesday, city leaders remain confident that the Alamodome's best days are still ahead of it.
That announcement was quickly overshadowed by news that the city and county would purchase Toyota Field for $18 million, with the potential to expand the approximately 8,000 seat stadium in order to meet Major League Soccer's minimum seating standard.
Mike Sawaya, director of the city's convention and sports facilities, said losing the bid was not solely based on the Alamodome, which is older than Levi's Stadium in the Bay Area (host of the 2018 championship game) but smaller than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans (host of the 2020 championship game.
"The decision for where that event is held is bigger than just the building. In some cases, I think people need to see how (a new or renovated stadium) is going to look, and see how it’s going to work. They can observe those in the other cities that have held events like this, they just haven't been able to observe it on the ground here yet," said Sawaya. "Most stadiums these days are in the 65-70,000 range, so it's not a matter of seating capacity. I think it's more about just all the amenities that the facilities have to offer, and we're improving the dome to be able to provide a lot of that.
On Wednesday Mayor Ivy Taylor said the city's partnership with the county will clear a path to bring the MLS to San Antonio. That will require expanding Toyota Field's seating capacity to at least 18,000 seats, which the city estimates will cost approximately $40 million. Owner Gordon Hartman designed the stadium to be expanded, which would save the city and county money.
"It's a lot more reasonable and cost effective to expand a stadium than build one from scratch," Sawaya said.
James Hope, president of the Crocketteers Soccer Supporters Group, said the announcement was bittersweet. As part of the deal the Spurs Sports and Entertainment Group will purchase a United Soccer League franchise, meaning the San Antonio Scorpions will no longer call Toyota Field home.
"It's a bit sad, but our day one mission has been to bring the highest professional soccer league to San Antonio, and that means MLS," Hope said. "What was the missing piece was an investment ownership group that could take us to that level, which we might have with Spurs Sports and Entertainment. With a commitment from the city and county to upgrade the stadium...we have everything now that Major League Soccer is looking for in expansion franchises.