City emails, texts show conversations and meetings surrounding potential ‘downtown’ arena for Spurs

Conversations started to pick up momentum following Spurs return to Alamodome on Jan. 13

👉 WATCH: See a timeline of the developments in this video.

As the excitement builds for the debut of Victor Wembanyama in a Spurs uniform, the future home of the organization is another topic that has picked up steam over the summer, according to city emails and texts obtained by KSAT-12.

The emails and texts obtained through an open records request indicate officials with the city and the Spurs organization have had a handful of conversations and meetings over the past few months prior to the Spurs winning the NBA Draft Lottery and selecting Wembanyama.

In July, KSAT reported the Spurs were considering a move from the AT&T Center on the East Side to the city’s downtown sector.

Months before that, the Spurs returned to the downtown area for a historic evening to celebrate the franchise’s 50th season in San Antonio. After more than 20 years, the Spurs played a game inside the Alamodome on Jan. 13 and broke the NBA’s all-time attendance record for a regular season game.

Fans watch the first half of an NBA basketball game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors in San Antonio, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. The game was played at the Alamodome in an effort to set a new single-game attendance record for an NBA game. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

According to records, later that evening, Spurs Chief Officer and General Counsel Bobby Perez texted San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh thanking him for a successful evening. Walsh texted back, “A great event, Bobby! We need more games downtown.”

Five days later on Jan. 18, Perez responded to Walsh texting, “Let’s discuss next steps re: downtown.” That started a recent chain of communication between the Spurs and the city.

On April 10, records showed that Walsh forwarded an email to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other city officials about an in-person meeting with Spurs brass, including Spurs Sports and Entertainment CEO R.C. Buford, at the AT&T Center. A text from Perez indicated the meeting happened on April 11.

More than a month later on May 24, an email from Walsh with the subject “Meeting with R.C. Buford,” showed the group of top city and Spurs officials gathered again at the AT&T Center. The emails did not indicate what was discussed in either meeting.

The next round of communication occurred weeks later. On June 15, Ben Gorzell, the City’s Chief Financial Officer, texted Spurs Senior VP of Finance and Technology Joe Loomis to set up a meeting at City Hall that took place on June 23, according to records.

The Spurs have not publicly commented on any reports about a downtown arena. Their lease at the AT&T Center, which has been renamed and rebranded to the Frost Bank Center ahead of this season, expires in 2032. The emails and texts did not give an indication the Spurs were looking to move before that date or break the lease with Bexar County, which owns the facility.

A city spokesperson confirmed to KSAT that the meetings were held, but responded to a request for comment by saying, “At this time, there is nothing to share regarding these meetings.”

The emails and text also gave no indication the Spurs were discussing any long-term plans with the San Antonio Missions baseball team. The Missions are rumored to also have interest in a new stadium in the downtown area.

Walsh appeared on KSAT-12′s 6 p.m. newscast on Monday and said while he and the mayor have had conversations with the Spurs, they are looking to figure out long-term plans for the Alamodome, convention center and the Hemisfair development. Walsh noted discussions about a downtown arena is of high interest to the public and will entail a much larger public conversation.

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.

Alex Trevino is a video editor at KSAT who works on the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.