Professional football returns to San Antonio: What are factors to XFL’s survival?

XFL to start play in San Antonio in February 2023

Professional football is returning to San Antonio, but along with it, doubts about whether this will league will lead to another failed football franchise in the Alamo City.

SAN ANTONIO – Professional football is returning to San Antonio, but there are doubts about whether this will lead to another failed football franchise in the Alamo City.

From the Gunslingers in the original USFL to the Commanders in the Alliance of American Football, a league that shut down during its first season, San Antonio has been home to many pro football teams that have not lasted very long.

But the XFL -- co-owned by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dany Garcia and other investment groups -- is giving the Alamo City another shot and potentially an economic boost in the process.

“It will enhance the quality of life for a sports fan or even more so if you’re a football fan,” said Dr. Steve Nivin, associate professor of economics at St. Mary’s University.

Nivin expects the league to draw well in San Antonio but said its success is not just about fan support.

“The bigger question is whether or not the league itself is sustainable,” said Nivin. “It’s possible that San Antonio can support a football team very well, but the league can’t sustain itself, and we’ve seen that.”

The San Antonio XFL team will play home games at the Alamodome beginning in February, and Nivin said that’s positive news for businesses in the area. It also keeps local money here.

“If it attracts visitors and there’s new money coming in, then that’s considered an economic impact,” said Nivin. “If they stay in San Antonio and spend that money or otherwise, they would have traveled outside of the city to attend any other football game or any other event. Those 25,000 fans get that benefit. They would have had to travel somewhere to see that.”

Nivin said there are benefits for the Alamodome to have a set tenant during the Spring.

“Beyond just the economic impact, it really goes to the contribution that the Alamodome makes to the quality of life in San Antonio. It hosts a variety of different events from these sporting events,” said Nivin.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff agreed with Nivin in saying that the Alamodome is a capable venue for the XFL but added that besides attendance, the television money and national exposure is an early win for San Antonio. Games will be shown on ESPN networks and ABC.

“They have a good television contract that will give the city of San Antonio a lot of visibility across the nation as we’ve got with the Spurs,” said Wolff.

Wolff said San Antonio has proven it will support lower-level professional sports leagues like the Missions and SAFC. But when it comes to football, it ultimately comes down to the financial structure and viability of the league.

“They’ve got to be sure that this league is funded, unencumbered funds for it. We don’t want to get off into another losing endeavor, and the losing endeavors are not because we didn’t draw the crowds, but because the league was screwed up,” said Wolff. “History doesn’t obviously show a good viability, but things change. We’re growing. We have over 2 million people in Bexar County, and we’re becoming a stronger market, and it may turn out right. But again, we need to be sure this is on a strong financial basis.”


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About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.