Do the Austin Spurs have a nice sound? How about the Monterrey Spurs, the first team in a major American sports league to be based in Mexico?
We may all have to get used to this going forward as the San Antonio Spurs will be taking some road trips during the home portion of their schedule. A “pilot program” passed a 3-2 vote in Bexar County Court that will give the Spurs a year-long probationary period during the 2022-23 season they play play four of their home games away from the AT&T Center in San Antonio. Some of these games will likely take place in Austin and Mexico City.
One of the Bexar County commissioners who voted against the measure, Tommy Calvert, was concerned the Spurs were considering leaving San Antonio for Austin. The response from Bobby Perez, Spurs’ general counsel, was that the team is simply looking to expand its fan base as they are also looking for a naming rights partner as AT&T has not renewed their contract.
“We’re looking for that in the market [a new] Naming rights partner, expanding that base, whether it’s Mexico or Austin, doesn’t matter,” Perez said about Steven Santana from my San Antonio.
It’s not the ringiest endorsement for the Spurs staying in San Antonio, but it’s part of the game in pro sports. The Chicago Bears aren’t looking for a name change, but they’re fed up with their mistake at the lake — renovating Soldier Field in the early days — and want a bigger and nicer stadium. In October they bought and currently are Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, Illinois work on drafts with some people who worked on the Las Vegas Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium. Because that’s what the bears need, a stadium that looks like a cleaning machine in the northwestern suburbs.
However, leaving San Antonio could be a forward-looking move for the Spurs. Yes, this is a historic NBA franchise, five NBA championships in 15 seasons and also one of the four franchises left after the ABA merger along with the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and now the Brooklyn Nets. Also, San Antonio is a much bigger place than people realize. Despite only being the 31st largest television market in America, it is actually the 7th largest city with a population of over 1 million.
But Austin is booming. It’s always had a strong creative scene, along with the University of Texas, but now people are moving here from all over the country. Last year it was the fastest growing metropolitan area in America. Say what you will about Joe Rogan and his equine medicine, but moving his operations to Austin was a big deal. He noted, as many others did, that Austin has a big city feel, a cool artistic culture unique to the city, and a lower cost of living (although it’s rising fast, just like every other big metropolis in America). Last year, Austin moved up from 40th to 38th in the television market rankings. If the NBA is going to continue to ignore the stellar giant market it left behind, aka Seattle, a burgeoning market like Austin isn’t a bad idea.
And if not Austin, why not become the first major American league to have a team in Mexico? The NFL is clearly thinking about it by bringing its international series back to Mexico City in 2022. Spurs already have a large Mexican fan base, and it’s just over a five-hour drive from San Antonio’s River Walk to Monterrey, a metropolitan area of more than five million people. Canada clearly works for the NBA in Toronto. Expanding into the other country in North America first, and doing so with a team that already has a fan base, could be a huge economic boon for the NBA. They might even try to make the giant move to Mexico City. That would be a long flight for a league game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Spurs, but now we’re talking 21 million people.
A move is still a lot of speculation. The Spurs must once again meet with Bexar County commissioners to complete this four-game plan. Also, the earliest the Spurs could end their lease is 2026, and that would come with a $84 million penalty. Her current lease does not expire until 2032. Such a move would also be unfortunate for a city that’s really showing up for this team. Some of the loudest NBA games I’ve ever heard were played at Spurs Stadium.
That being said, this is probably the most intriguing team to move. Forget the Oakland A’s moving to Vegas or the Jacksonville Jaguars to England, the Spurs in Austin or Mexico could be a hit. The fans are already close. After seeing Dejounte Murray play in person a few times, you might be ready for the real thing very quickly.