Third option weighed for Alamo Stadium

With opposition mounting to removing the track from Alamo Stadium to make room for a professional-size soccer field, San Antonio Independent School District officials are examining a third option that would allow for both sports.

This option would entail a smaller pro soccer field than originally envisioned fitting within the track, a move that still could pave the way for a pro team.

It also leaves open a future partnership with Spurs Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Spurs, which has shown interest in bringing a United Soccer League franchise to the city and previously planned to rent the stadium for pro soccer games.

SAISD trustees added the option late Tuesday after a scheduled vote on whether to relocate the stadium’s track to make room for a pro soccer field was met with sharp criticism and after negotiations for an alternate track at the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex were abruptly ended by city officials.

But the new option could cost millions in additional construction, according to Kamal ElHabr, SAISD associate superintendent of facilities and construction. he said structural engineers will be studying its feasibility, but that based on the stadium layout, even a smaller pro soccer field could push the track into the lower-level concrete grandstands.

“Nothing is impossible,” ElHabr said. “It can be done.”

Cutting into a portion of the lower-level grand stands, which on one side sit elevated on beams and on another side emanate from a wall of limestone rock, could affect the external structure, ElHabr said.

He added that plans would need to be approved by the Texas Historical Commission, as Alamo Stadium was added to a list of national historic sites a few months ago.

Internal changes to the site, he said, would not likely be an issue, but a change to the external structure could be challenged.

And there still is the issue of a 1939 deed restriction that bars the district from using the stadium for private profit or professional sports. City attorney Michael Bernard has said that the city’s spotty history of enforcing the restrictive covenant does not make the deed “invalid.”

Alamo Stadium, along with the adjacent Convocation Center, is slated for $35 million in bond-funded renovations. It is part of a $515 million bond voters passed last November.

Originally, board members had two stadium options to consider: to remove the track for a pro soccer field or keep it and build a University Interscholastic League-size soccer field, which is appropriate for middle and high school students but wouldn’t be ideal for a professional team.

A vocal opponent of removing the track, District 5 trustee Patti Radle has said a pro soccer field is unnecessary for the needs of middle and high school students and asked SAISD Superintendent Robert Durón on Tuesday night why the option still was on the table despite not having an alternate track venue lined up.

Radle said after the meeting that while negotiations with Wheatley had been terminated, she assumed other board members were thinking of leasing the complex — an option that had been left on the table by city officials.

But the new field option, which was introduced by Rubén Cuero, board vice president and District 1 trustee, may eliminate the problem of displacing track athletes altogether.

“The important goal is to maximize the facility for all the student needs,” said President-elect Ed Garza, who has argued that a pro soccer field would create equity among sports, noting Tuesday night that the district’s two soccer fields lacked adequate seating.

At a Jan. 17 board meeting where trustees are scheduled to vote on stadium options and renovation plans, Garza will take the reins as board president from James Howard, whose term expires.

Currently, the stadium accommodates both football and track events. A UIL-size soccer field would fit within the track, according to SAISD athletic director Gil Garza.

Called to make a recommendation regarding the stadium Tuesday night by Radle, he advocated for retaining the track, as did several district coaches during an almost two-hour block where speakers denounced the track removal and questioned how equitable it would be to move track and field athletes out of the historic stadium.

A handful of proponents argued in favor of a pro soccer field, citing sports equity and the growth in the popularity of soccer, which some said had not been matched by district dollars.

Gil Garza acknowledged that soccer gets less funding than some sports, but noted that soccer players don’t require much gear.

Jerry Comalander, North East Independent School District’s athletic director, said sports equity was hard to assess based strictly on dollar amounts. he said important factors include how much it costs to outfit a player and how much revenue the sport brings.

“They don’t all get the same amount of money because they don’t all need the same amount of money,” Comalander said. “If you’re going to be fair, you need to talk about revenue as well.”

But NEISD has two pro soccer fields, a point Ed Garza emphasized Tuesday night in a presentation that outlined the disparity in pro soccer fields between SAISD and other local districts, predominantly wealthier districts on the North Side with more space.

At a special Jan. 5 workshop, trustees will be asked to review field options and also consider how to divide $35 million between the stadium and the Convocation Center, which serves as a basketball and volleyball gym and also houses the offices of athletic administrators.

Third option weighed for Alamo Stadium


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