Both NASL and USL Pro are proposing teams in San Antonio. This could get interesting, or not.
Alamo Stadium now open for offers
(by Lindsay Kastner mysanantonio.com 1-7-11)
Spurs Sports & Entertainment Vice President Leo Gomez said Thursday the company will propose bringing a United Soccer Leagues franchise to Alamo Stadium to play 12 to 15 home games, eventually developing it into a Major League Soccer team.
“We would work to grow the market and get to that point sooner rather than later,” Gomez said.
The proposal would mean keeping the stadium's football field but doing away with the eight-lane track to make room for the pro soccer field.
The San Antonio Independent School District, which owns the stadium and the adjacent Convocation Center, begins soliciting partnership concepts for the facilities today.
In addition to SS&E, Trinity University plans to respond.
SS&E, parent company of the Spurs, has “been doing our due diligence for a number of years now,” Gomez said, and has chosen a credible franchise in the USL, adding that Gordon Hartman's plans to launch a rival soccer franchise across town won't affect the team's viability.
Hartman has lined up a North American Soccer League franchise and said he would dedicate the proceeds from the team to Morgan's Wonderland, the North Side park he built for special-needs children.
Hartman wants to have a 5,400-seat stadium at the soccer complex adjacent to the park ready for play in 2012.
SS&E has long been interested in a deal with SAISD to house a pro soccer team at the stadium.
The two parties eased off conversations until after the district's $515 million bond election in November amid concerns the company — a major donor to the bond campaign — would benefit from bond money meant for student needs.
District officials say their “request for information” is an attempt to leverage the $35 million in bond funds set aside for renovation of the aging stadium and Convocation Center.
Those renovations account for more than a third of the bond projects that will be managed in-house by the district. This week it awarded oversight of the remaining $416 million in bond projects to the Muñoz Jacobs consortium.
Northside and North East, the two largest school districts in the county, manage their own bond programs, but SAISD chose a hybrid approach, retaining control of the stadium/convocation overhaul as well as several other projects, for a total of $99 million.
Any interested party can propose stadium partnership ideas during the next two weeks.
SAISD School Board President James Howard said Trinity has shown some interest.
“I think they would be interested in some football action over there, and possibly even soccer,” Howard said. “I think Trinity would be a good partner.”
Trinity President Dennis Ahlburg said the school plans to make an overture but isn't certain yet whether a stadium partnership would be a good fit.
“If it works to our advantage and theirs, then we definitely want to explore that,” he said.
Howard said he hopes the district will receive a range of feedback, which could help drive the design of the stadium's renovation.
“The idea is not far-fetched to look at the possibility of some sort of combination of amphitheater and stadium,” he said. “I'm not saying that's what we're going to do, but the idea is out there.”
SAISD operates the Works Progress Administration-era Alamo Stadium — known as the Rockpile because of its limestone walls — at a deficit, despite renting it to groups ranging from firefighters doing training exercises to Pop Warner football.
“Our core competency is education, it's not revenue-generating,” said district Associate Superintendent Steven Bassett. “So sometimes it makes sense for us to work with someone else.”
The district will maintain ownership and control of the venues as well as retain scheduling priority.
“We understand those parameters,” SS&E's Gomez said. “We realize first and foremost it is a facility for the school district's athletic program.”
He said a USL team would play 12 to 15 home games between April and September, at times when the facility won't be needed by students. Over time, the team would upgrade to MLS status, he said, pointing to teams in Portland and Seattle that he said made the switch after roughly 10 years.
“We believe that if Alamo Stadium is redeveloped appropriately it would have the basic infrastructure to someday in the future upgrade to MLS standards,” Gomez said. “And still abide by the school district's standards.”
Besides the field, a pro soccer venue would require chair-back seats instead of the benches there now.
Having soccer and football at the stadium would leave no room for the eight-lane track. If soccer is added, Bassett said, the district could consider moving some track events to the nine-lane track planned for the unfinished Wheatley Heights Sports Complex.
“We don't own that facility,” Bassett said of the East Side venue. “We do have an (agreement) with them to explore utilizing that facility just because they have a large facility in the heart of our district.”
Howard said he's looking forward to the ideas for stadium partnerships.
“Given the state of the financial status that all school districts are in, we've got to start looking at creative and interesting ways to generate revenue,” he said.
San Antonio 2012 Expansion Team Named
San Antonio’s new professional soccer team – the San Antonio Scorpions FC – will be out to sting the competition when exciting North American Soccer League (NASL) action kicks off early next year.
A panel of judges from the South Texas Area Regional (STAR) Soccer Complex, NASL San Antonio, Morgan’s Wonderland and The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation selected Scorpions from more than 1,000 entries in the “Name Our Team” contest. Philanthropist Gordon Hartman also unveiled plans for the Scorpions’ new home at STAR Soccer.
A dozen fans among the 1,000-plus entrants submitted the name Scorpions, so a drawing by 17-year-old Morgan Hartman – namesake of Morgan’s Wonderland – determined Carolyn Lummus of San Antonio as the winner of a prize package. It includes accompanying the Scorpions on a road trip, dinner with the team’s head coach, a private soccer clinic with Scorpions players, four season seats for the team’s inaugural season and a package of equipment to include a Scorpions jersey autographed by the players.
“Scorpions are feisty, tough critters indigenous to South Texas,” said Hartman, who’s heading Soccer for a Cause, the community-wide campaign that’s bringing pro soccer to San Antonio to further boost the sport’s growing popularity and to benefit Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first ultra-accessible family fun park designed with special-needs individuals of all ages in mind. “The judges liked the name Scorpions because of their fierce reputation and fighting spirit that we’re confident our team will display on the playing field.”
Hartman also outlined plans to construct a 5,400-seat facility at STAR Soccer next to Morgan’s Wonderland in Northeast San Antonio that will serve as home of the Scorpions. The facility can easily be expanded to 18,000 seats and accommodate a move up to Major League Soccer (MLS), he noted.
“STAR Soccer cost $10 million, and approximately half of the funding came from private sources,” Hartman said. “We intend to build on the infrastructure already in place to create an up-to-date-yet-affordable playing facility for the Scorpions that can also host high school and collegiate tournaments as well as performances and other special events. To accomplish all this, we’re seeking
approximately $8 million in public funding for a venue that will serve our community in many ways, not just pro soccer.”
Hartman urged soccer fans and citizens interested in Soccer for a Cause to contact their local elected officials and express strong support for providing the funding necessary to build a facility that meets professional-soccer standards. He said information on how to get in touch with those officials is readily available at www.SoccerforaCause.com. Construction must begin this spring to adhere to a tight timeline leading up to NASL play in March 2012, he added.
“Time is tight because another NASL team from Canada is moving up to MLS in 2012,” Hartman explained. “This has made it possible for us to take the slot occupied by the Canadian team and field our own NASL team in 2012. That’s why we’re moving quickly to take advantage of this great opportunity.”
Hartman said his pro soccer plan has garnered innumerable expressions of support from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, other elected officials, business and civic leaders, soccer fans and Morgan’s Wonderland supporters.
“We believe this is the first time a pro sports team has been organized whereby every cent of net revenue goes to support special-needs individuals,” Hartman said. “Morgan’s Wonderland has profoundly touched the lives of children and adults with special needs, their families and friends. In our first season in 2010, we attracted more than 100,000 guests from 47 states and 13 other countries.
“It takes a lot of money to operate and maintain the park in tip-top condition, especially when you admit special-needs individuals free of charge. The Scorpions will generate revenue that will make it possible to keep Morgan’s Wonderland open for years and years to come.”
Hartman acknowledged the existence of another group that’s talked of forming their own pro soccer team. “We’re well on our way toward bringing in the highest level of professional soccer currently available to San Antonio, just one step removed from MLS,” he said. “The other group’s announced plans call for a team in a lower, third-tier league. We believe our approach makes much more sense for our community as a whole and certainly for those with special needs in our midst.”
Now that San Antonio’s NASL team has a name, the next step will be to create a team logo. Both professional and amateur designers will be invited to submit entries, and fans will have the opportunity to vote online and choose a logo from three finalists selected by a Soccer for a Cause judging panel. Details of the “Design Our Team Logo” contest will be released before the end of the month, and that will be followed by a “Design Our Uniform” contest.
Fans who don’t want to miss any Scorpions action can reserve season seats for the 2012 inaugural season. A $25 deposit will place the fan on a priority list and give him or her the right to select a specific seat location at a “Select Your Seat” event. To reserve their season seat plans, fans can visit www.SoccerforaCause.com, call toll-free (855) 333-2012 or stop by STAR Soccer at Thousand Oaks and Wurzbach Parkway between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. Scorpions fans also can follow the building of their team at http://www.facebook.com/NASLSanAntonio or http://www.twitter.com/NASL_SA.
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I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.