By: Ari Temkin
There’s a famous quote that could adequately describe the Alamodome’s first twenty five years: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and City Council shot for the moon with the Alamodome by trying to lure an NFL team to San Antonio – and instead landed amongst the stars.
The Alamodome represents a lot of different things to a lot of different people in this city. But the multipurpose facility’s reincarnation, to the tune of $41 million in improvements, holds the key to the future viability of the downtown area. San Antonio is a city that has seen major growth, as its geographic make-up continues to expand. But the key to the vibrancy of a city remains in a thriving downtown.
San Antonio’s lone downtown sports facility has hosted some of the country’s biggest events over the years, and has been a major economic driving force. City Councilman Joe Krier believes the city’s renovation project will expand on that trend: “The Alamodome’s best days are in front of it.”
This is truly less about the Alamodome specifically, and more about being a player in the national sports landscape. It’s like any other business: if you are confident in your product, then you’ll be able to sell people as soon as they walk through the doors. Sports play an important economic role in San Antonio, and the city has a ton to offer as a professional sports destination. The more the city is part of the national sports conversation, the greater the likelihood for future expansion.
The Alamodome is an extremely unique facility in that it’s the only one of its kind in the United States that was paid for in full by the day it opened. Every other city across the country accrues major debt in building sports venues. “It’s been a huge asset for the city,” said Krier, who served as the President of the Chamber when the Alamodome was built. “We brought the US Olympic Festival; we’ve brought the Final Four on more than one occasion and a host of conventions. Although it was controversial at the time, it has paid off in spades.”
The full $41 million investment the city has pledged in improvements to the Alamodome will be finished by the end of 2017, but some of the renovations will be seen as soon as 2016. There are already major events scheduled to be hosted in the Alamodome as an immediate dividend for the city’s investment. The Alamodome will host Notre Dame vs. Army in November 2017, as well as the 2018 Final Four. The renovations will also make San Antonio a legitimate candidate in the future for the College Football National Championship and the Big 12 Baseball tournament.
These events serve as a major economic force and help to sustain one of the city’s biggest industries. “We have tens of thousands of jobs in this community that flow from the hospitality industry,” says Krier. “All those folks that work in the hospitality industry buy homes, they buy cars, and they buy goods and services. There’s a huge spinoff from that, so it’s important that we keep that industry healthy and competitive.”
The city has poured resources into helping revitalize downtown San Antonio, and the improvements to the Alamodome play a major role in that. But there’s also hope for future expansion for downtown sports. Krier was part of the Wolff Stadium project and says that although the stadium was built on land provided to the city at no charge, a downtown baseball stadium is better long term option. “We’ve done improvements on it, but we can only do so much because it’s an old facility. So why don’t we look at partnering with the city and the county to find a way to build a baseball stadium downtown. It’s going to require some vision and creativity. I don’t know when we will get around to that, but I would certainly hope we’ll get around to that very soon.”
Proximity is the trump card for San Antonio. None of the other major cities in Texas can offer what San Antonio can from a location standpoint. Attend a major sporting event in Houston or Dallas and the difference is glaring. San Antonio offers a facility that is walking distance from hotels and the Riverwalk. “You don’t just throw a building away after twenty years,” said Krier. “If you could extend its useful life by a reasonable investment, you can provide yourself with an asset that can compete for events that you could not compete for unless you had those upgrades in place.”
And then there’s the metaphorical parallel between the Alamodome and UTSA Football. Five years ago, UTSA didn’t have a football program . . . and the Alamodome continued to get overlooked for major events. The partnership between the two is symbiotic. There’s a certain credibility afforded to the UTSA Football Program because they play in the Alamodome. Division One football in downtown San Antonio has completely changed the way our city views UTSA – more so than anything else since the university’s inception.
In some ways that sentiment is mirrored by the facility itself. Once viewed as a major mistake, the Alamodome is now the catalyst to help push San Antonio into a pinnacle of sports entertainment.