Photo Credit: Express-News
Even the most hardcore soccer fans in the U.S. can admit that the NFL is king in
the north America. No other professional league comes close in revenue, television ratings, or office cooler hype. Even those Texans most apathetic to the NFL could probably tell you that Jerry Jones owns the Dallas Cowboys and is the actual devil.
But what would happen if a city that’s gunning for MLS suddenly found an NFL team knocking at their door? Well if you’ve been living under a rock, prepare yourself for some news. San Antonio may be in that exact situation.
Let me preface this by immediately angering anyone who is passionately for the NFL coming to San Antonio: there’s a better chance of Gregg Popovich staring in a one man musical than the Raiders coming to SA. The NFL already owns the SA television market and merchandise sales. There’s no extra money to be made here that couldn’t be made several times over in Oakland or Las Vegas. There’s no reason to allow a franchise to come here, even for owners other than Jerry Jones and Houston’s Bob McNair, because there isn’t any additional money on which they’re missing out.
But for the purposes of this post, lets pretend that the NFL’s Raiders were indeed coming to the San Antonio area. What effect would that have on Spurs Sports and Entertainment’s goal of taking their franchise to MLS?
One thing that SA does have going for it is Toyota Field. Its one of the best soccer specific stadiums in the league, and would be one of the best in the country if it was big enough to hold MLS size crowds. Luckily Toyota Field was built with just that in mind should MLS ever give SA a bid, expanding the stadium from 8,000 seats to around 18,000. Should a bid come, San Antonio and Bexar county residents would be asked to vote on approval to fund the stadium expansion unless a private bidder steps up before that.
An NFL stadium would require a level of construction never seen on a stadium in this area before. In 2016, seven year old Jerryworld / AT&T Stadium in Arlington is practically outdated. The 80,000 seat cathedral of mediocrity cost $1.3 Billion (with a B) to construct, and included $325 million in taxpayer money. The taxpayer money is the reason the ‘boys are still in Arlington and not their namesake city.
The newest completed stadium in the league, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, attracted the San Francisco 49er’s almost an hour south of their former home because the city of Santa Clara was willing to borrow $850 million from goldman sachs to give to Jed York and the niners. (Side note: York is part of the ownership group willing to step in if Sacramento Republic FC gets an MLS bid).
So assuming the stadium isn’t 100% privately funded, because no stadiums are anymore, will South Texas residents really vote to fork over $325 – $850 million to build a stadium? If they do, will they still be willing to shell out the $38-$45 million needed to expand Toyota Field?
On location of a new NFL team, proposed sites include on 35 between San Antonio and Austin or on 1604 on the far west side of town. 88 year old billionaire Red McCombs says that he has investors lined up should Raiders ownership decide to come to SA.
He then went on to shoot two revolvers into the ground, lifting him, his big red mustache, and cowboy hat slightly into the air. Should a stadium land at either of the two sites being thrown around, traffic would be even worse than usual. 1604 is still undergoing expansion to keep up with growth that’s occurred over the last 10 years. 35, which runs very close to Toyota Field and is the fastest way there for many, could be a parking lot on days where an NFL team and MLS team both play if there are two stadiums relatively close.
Speaking of shared gamedays, how much would an NFL team pull away from an MLS team if they both played on the same night? With the NFL trying to leech into every night of the week, there are more games on Thursday and Monday than ever before. There are even occasional Saturday games, though those are mostly because of holidays. Could an MLS team compete for attention on those days? It would be a more affordable option for families, but would that be enough to pack Toyota Field?
When it comes down to it, the NFL schedule and MLS schedule don’t overlap tremendously. There probably would be enough interest, even on a rare shared gameday to support both, but its something that MLS officials may keep an eye out in doling out bids in the coming years.
The biggest concern would be the public funding. Even though expansion of Toyota Field is a paltry sum compared to funding a brand new NFL stadium, it could be difficult to convince taxpayers to approve both. The best thing that SA fans who want to see San Antonio FC move into MLS can do is to get their friends out to the stadium. If San Antonio FC can establish a strong fanbase in 2016, while Mark Davis and the NFL continue to throw their billions around, they’ll have a running start to get expansion funding passed on the ballot. Bexar county recently approved $101.5 million for AT&T Center renovations for the Spurs, so hopefully the same public support will be met when they need money for their soccer team to thrive in top-tier soccer.