Officials leery about loss of NCAA basketball if Texas Legislature passes ‘bathroom law'

Lt. Gov. Patrick supports similar law that has cost North Carolina championships

SAN ANTONIO – As North Carolina loses championship games over its controversial transgender bathroom law, there's a question as to whether San Antonio will have to worry about the fate of the 2018 Final Four, which it is scheduled to host.

The ACC pulled eight championship games out of North Carolina Wednesday over the state's controversial transgender bathroom law, known as House Bill 2. The conference follows the example of the NCAA, which pulled seven championships on Monday "because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections."

The law requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates, not their gender identity, in schools and many public buildings. It also limits other statewide LGBT protections..

Equality Texas, a group that supports LGBT rights, believes the Texas Legislature will take up similar bills when the legislature reconvenes in January. Should Texas pass a similar law to North Carolina's, it might find itself facing a similar result with the NCAA.

"I think that's a safe assumption," said Bill Petrella, the president of the San Antonio Housing & Lodging Association.

For San Antonio, that could mean losing the Final Four in 2018, the city's tricentennial year. The city expects a $75 million economic impact from the tournament and has spent $52 million to prepare the Alamo Dome for the games and $4 million extra to finish the airport's consolidated rental car facility by January 2018.

"People come here to stay in our hotels, rent cars, eat in our restaurants. Our city gets showcased to the world," said city spokeswoman Jeff Coyle.

Coyle said the city wants to "staunchly defend" its ability to compete for major events. With the legislative session not due to begin until January, there is no official proposals yet. Still, the city is watching to see what happens.

"At this point in time, we see no reason why the NCAA won't continue to hold the game here," Coyle said, "but we'll certainly be aware of anything that might change that."

They aren't the only ones keeping an eye out. Petrella and SAHLA is concerned about the effects of losing the Fianl Four and subsequent events.

"That could really be devastating to our industry and our local economy," Petrella said.

SAHLA doesn't have a formal position, but it doesn't want to lose the Final Four.

"If the Final Four wasn't here, those hotels aren't packed. The restaurants aren't packed. The taxis aren't full, and our associates aren't working," Petrella said.

In the legislature, local state Rep. Lyle Larson (R-122) said enforcing current laws would be better than passing a new one.

"I don't really see a lot of merit to pursuing something that could have a detrimental impact on our business," Larson said. "But we want to make sure that we continue to have the separation."

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has signaled support for a similar law in Texas.


About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.