Why is Hemisfair speculated as a possible new home for the Spurs?

The Spurs’ lease of the Frost Bank Center lasts into 2032, but a possible move downtown has been discussed

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs have another eight years on their lease at the Frost Bank Center, but a series of events in the past two years have spurred speculation of a possible downtown move.

In particular, the current location of UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures at Hemisfair has emerged as a likely candidate for a new arena. This, despite there being no confirmation yet from either the Spurs or the City of San Antonio, which has an exclusive option to buy or lease the land.

There have, however, been plenty of dots to connect.


Back in May 2022, the Spurs broached the idea of playing some of their home games away from the Bexar County-owned Frost Bank Center — then the AT&T Center —including in Austin.

Bexar County Commissioners approved a limited trial for the 2022-2023 season and again for the 2023-2024 season.

The idea initially spooked fans, who worried about a permanent move up I-35, but Spurs Chairman Peter J. Holt reassured the Spurs faithful the team was “here to stay. Por Vida.”

The team has also helped quell concerns of an out-of-town move through the creation of its $500 million Rock at La Cantera campus.


However, staying in San Antonio doesn’t necessarily mean the team will stay at the Frost Bank Center.

The team has a lease and non-relocation agreement with Bexar County lasting through the 2031-2032 season.

In July 2023, a source confirmed to KSAT there were “informal and preliminary” conversations between the Spurs and the City of San Antonio about what will happen when that lease ends, including whether a downtown move may be feasible.

The next month, a KSAT open records request turned up emails and texts conversations and meetings surrounding a potential downtown arena between city officials and members of the Spurs organization.


So how does the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Culture play into it, specifically?

To start, the ITC’s spacious location in the Texas Pavilion at the Southeast corner of Hemisfair is right next to I-37, across the highway from the city-owned Alamodome.

In February, the University of Texas System Board of Regents also conditionally approved an exclusive option for the City of San Antonio to buy or lease 13.6 acres on the Hemisfair campus for a potential revitalization project.

A city spokeswoman on Thursday emailed a statement form Assistant City Manager Lori Houston that referenced possibilities like a major Alamodome renovation or “other public private development opportunities.” However, Houston’s statement does not mention the Spurs specifically.

“The City’s interest in an option to purchase the Institute of Texas Cultures (ITC) stems from the proximity of this property to Hemisfair and the potential development and redevelopment opportunities in the area including expansion of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, a major renovation to the Alamodome, a land bridge over IH 37 reconnecting Hemisfair to the east side of San Antonio, plus other public private development opportunities as called for in the Hemisfair Master Plan.”

Lori Houston, San Antonio Assistant City Manager

UTSA had already been trying to figure out the future of the museum, and, on Tuesday, it announced a plan to temporarily move the ITC to the first floor of Frost Tower. The university hopes to eventually create a new, permanent home for the museum near the Alamo.

The plan leaves the Texas Pavilion empty, and UTSA has said it will need to demolish the building to get the most of that land underneath it.

So, while the university’s plans don’t appear to be motivated as a way to make space for a Spurs arena, they do appear to make it possible.


The San Antonio Missions are also said to be looking for a new, downtown stadium site.

A source who has spoken with Missions owners said city officials told the team to not even consider the ITC location.

The source tells KSAT that the Missions owners took that as a sign the city was hoping to keep the spot available for the Spurs.

A Missions spokesman told KSAT the organization had no comment.


If there are specific plans in the works for a Spurs arena at Hemisfair, neither the city nor team will say.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg danced around the question when asked about the possibility of a Spurs arena at Hemisfair during a live KSAT interview Tuesday.

UTSA had engaged the city to “help with the ITC situation,” he said, and the city has “had some discussions about what the Spurs are looking at in the future.”

“So we’re actively engaged in this situation. Nothing to share at this moment. But suffice it to say, we are very interested in making sure that the Spurs are a successful part of San Antonio, for the foreseeable future,” Nirenberg said.

City Manager Erik Walsh would not confirm any specific plan to put an arena on the location either when KSAT asked about it on Thursday.

A Spurs spokesman did not respond to calls requesting comment on Thursday or Friday.

UTSA spokesman Joe Izbrand said in an email the university is unable to speak to the future use of the Hemisfair property, and Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai said question about the city’s plans for the land would be best directed to the city.

With no public acknowledgement from any of the major players, there’s little to do but speculate over the Spur’s future plans.

But, behind watching the team play, that is one of San Antonio’s favorite past times.

About the Author

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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