Major League Soccer still city, county's focus over Triple-A baseball

Mayor: 'We have a clear path and a league that is expanding'

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - As the San Antonio Football Club continues to win games and draws crowds, city and county leaders continue to look forward to a Major League Soccer team.

"San Antonio is a major league city. We should be proud of that," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

A Major League Soccer franchise has been city and county leaders' end goal since they jointly purchased Toyota Field and leased it to Spurs Sports & Entertainment, the San Antonio Football Club's franchise owner.

Spurs Sports & Entertainment is one of 12 franchises competing for four MLS expansion spots, and local leaders are optimistic the franchise will get one of them.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he believes MLS will pick one or two of the teams this December.

"We kind of think we have a better shot at the third and fourth pick, and when we don't know when that would be — possibly sometime next year," Wolff said. "We just don't know for sure."

Until then, the MLS dream remains just a possibility, while the arrival of AAA minor baseball in San Antonio is certain. The San Antonio Missions announced in June that the franchise would switch to AAA ball in 2019.

Even so, the emphasis remains definitively on Major League Soccer for both the city and county.

"We have a clear path and a league that is expanding, so our focus is on Major League Soccer," Nirenberg said.

"Our primary objective here at the county is Major League Soccer," Wolff said.

The priorities matter because they could end up being funding priorities.

A jump to MLS would require Toyota Field to add at least 10,000 seats, which will likely involve public dollars.

"As owners of the stadium, we would work out some arrangement with the Spurs to expand that, where we would share that between the city, the county and the Spurs at some ratio. I'm not sure what yet," Wolff said.

Similarly, the Missions will also need a bigger ballpark to play AAA baseball. The Missions president said in June the team did not yet have a stadium development plan.

Wolff, who is the namesake of the Missions' current home, said Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium could be expanded or a new one stadium could be built.

As to whether there could be city or county involvement, "I just don't know that yet," Wolff said.

Nirenberg isn't speculating about stadium plans either.

"When there's a deal that someone brings to the city, I'll look at (it)," he said. "But until then, I reserve judgment."

Less than a year ago as a councilman, his judgment on a downtown stadium was harsh.

"This has been a giant distraction, and we need to stop wasting time and money on it," Nirenberg said then.

His comments came after then-Mayor Ivy Taylor announced there would be no funding for a downtown AAA baseball park in the 2017 bond or budget. Taylor said at the time, there were no financial commitments from potential partners.

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