San Antonio – The City of San Antonio will officially kick in public dollars for the Spurs Sports & Entertainment-led $510.8 million “Human Performance Campus” near La Cantera, bringing the total of local, public incentives to $32 million.
City council members voted 9-1 to approve up to $17 million in tax rebates for the nearly 50-acre project, which would sit close to the northwest corner of Interstate 10 and Loop 1604. The Spurs organization would still pay property taxes under the deal with the city, but it would get back 60% of the city’s share of the tax bill for real property improvements over 20-23 years, or until the $17 million cap is reached.
“It’s going to be paid based on what they invest in the taxes that they paid,” Assistant City Manager Alex Lopez told council members.
District 2 Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez voted against the rebates, saying he was opposed to incentivizing economic development over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.
District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry was at a conference in Minneapolis and not present for Thursday’s vote.
According to SS&E officials, the Human Performance Campus includes a collection of world-class training facilities, cutting-edge healthcare offices, a 22-acre park, and an outdoor plaza. SS&E officials have described the Human Performance Institute component of the project as a place where people from around the world can come together, virtually and physically, to explore ways to enhance human performance - not only in the athletic sphere, but also cognitive, social, and creative arts.
“As we looked at the future of our program, I said,’ why not in San Antonio?’” SS&E CEO RC Buford told councilmembers. “Why not here in a region that is as fast growing region as there is in the world, in a place that already has great resources from military, from academia, from medical, from research?”
County leaders have already committed $15 million to the project, though the form that assistance would take hasn’t been nailed down yet. In return, the county gets the park land, which the Spurs will maintain and operate - similar to their agreements for the AT&T Center or Toyota Field.
The Spurs organization estimates $510.8 million would be invested in the project over five years. Spurs officials have previously told KSAT the project will be primarily funded by private investors.
SS&E Executive Vice-President and General Counsel Bobby Perez said the $32 million in public investment leverages another $470 million.
City staff and officials called the campus a “catalytic” project.
“To have San Antonio, which has its own growing premier place in the world in that research, is something that we should continue to lean into,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, “and I appreciate the Spurs approach to forming this conceptual campus around that idea first.”
In their conversations, county and city officials both touched upon the idea of whether the project meant the beloved basketball team would be truly anchored in the Alamo City.
Austin billionaire Michael Dell and the global investment group Six Street’s purchase of a minority stake in the Spurs in June spurred trepidation among fans about the franchise’s intentions for the future, and whether the team would remain in San Antonio.
“To retain those good old Spurs here in San Antonio, getting $120 million out of them to invest in this is a big step forward to doing that,” County Judge Nelson Wolff said during the county’s Aug. 10 discussions.
However, District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez, whose district the project site is in, said trying to keep the Spurs in the city did not calculate into his support for the project.
“The Spurs is just a part of this,” Pelaez said from the dais. “There are going to be a lot of other companies and players involved here who are going to contribute to the success of this project, and that shouldn’t be discounted either.”
Spurs officials expect there could be more than 1,700 potential full-time employees at the site.
The city deal comes with strings attached, though, including at least $246 million in capital investment at the site, creating at least 15 jobs paying $50,000 or more annually, agreeing to follow the city’s tree and water quality ordinances, helping to advertise and participate in the SA: Ready to Work program, and pay $1.3 million for public art in the project.
The city’s incentives apply to a roughly 24-acre portion of the project, and does not apply to the 22-acre park.
McKee-Rodriguez voted against the rebates because he said he did not want to incentivize development over the recharge zone.
“I do think the Spurs is the best for this. And that being said, I still have to say no,” the District 2 Councilman said. “I just want it to be clear, it is not against Spurs, and it’s not for anything other than that Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.”
Nirenberg and city staff though noted SS&E had agreed to much stricter requirements for impervious ground cover and tree retention as part of the deal than it would have otherwise had to follow.
“And so combining those development standards from the city perspective in an economic development agreement was the first time we’ve done that,” said City Manager Erik Walsh. “And those were two critical pieces of the city’s position, ensuring that that development maintained current standards.”
Even with the rebates and other costs, the city estimates the project will net the city $21.6 million over the 25 years of the agreement, based on the tax revenue from the site, its construction, and job creation.