The San Antonio Spurs’ top lawyer asked the Bexar County Commissioners Court on Tuesday to amend its AT&T Center lease agreement with the county so the team can schedule games in Austin and Mexico City as part of its home game schedules for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 seasons.
The commissioners instead signaled support for changes to one season, not two. They will wait two weeks before holding a formal vote, in order to get more input from the community and other city leaders. Bexar Judge Nelson Wolff said Mayor Ron Nirenberg had not been notified about the Spurs’ plans when the two spoke Tuesday morning.
“There’s a divided opinion in this community as to the intention of the Spurs,” Wolff told Spurs Sports & Entertainment Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel Bobby Perez.
The Spurs want the lease amended to allow the team to play two of their 41 2022-2023 regular season home games within 100 miles of the arena, likely at Austin’s new Moody Center, according to a spokeswoman for the Spurs. Another game would be played at the Alamodome and yet another would be played outside of the country, likely in Mexico City.
For the 2023-2024 season, the team requested that two games be played within 100 miles of the county-owned AT&T Center and two would be held in other countries.
The upcoming season schedules haven’t been determined yet and the moves will ultimately require permission from the NBA. The Moody Center, which officially opened last week, has not been approved by the league for use as a venue.
“It’s about building that brand from Mexico to Austin,” Perez told commissioners in explaining the team’s request.
Several of the commissioners expressed skepticism that the lease amendment was necessary. The current lease allows the Spurs to play two home games outside of Bexar County. The team also has previously played some games in Mexico, but as the visiting team.
Perez said he wanted the wording of the contract clarified to avoid a potential financial penalty.
“We need that crystal clarity,” Perez said. “… We don’t want to get sideways with our partner.”
The Spurs also want to be able to play games in Mexico as the home team, something they haven’t done in the past.
Although Spurs officials have said repeatedly they are committed to keeping the franchise in San Antonio, the request to play games elsewhere stirred fears that a larger corporate base in Austin could one day lure the team up Interstate 35.
Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) said he was reluctant to make a move that wasn’t actually necessary for the games in question, but that might cause the community to worry about the Spurs’ intentions.
“I have a good pulse feed of my constituents,” said Calvert. They think you’re “testing the waters in Austin.”
“I hope you understand where we’re coming from,” said Calvert.
The issue is so sensitive that commissioners paused their regular meeting to meet behind closed doors in executive session. They later returned and resumed the regular session to question Perez in open session.
“I’m hoping this is a way to broaden their base” of fans, said Wolff, who requested that the team’s owners address the court at their meeting in two weeks.
“We hope we get some of that money out of Austin, we hope some of the corporations begin supporting us here,” Wolff added. “[The Spurs] are our partners and we want to try to give them a chance to work their theory.”
This article has been updated to correctly reflect the commissioners’ executive session.