An eye level Toyota Field Expansion rendering released in September of 2014. Courtesy of the Scorpions FC Facebook page.
An eye level Toyota Field expansion proposal rendering released in September of 2014. Courtesy of the Scorpions FC Facebook page.

City Council spent most of Thursday morning discussing a controversial study detailing long-range water needs and options for the cities of San Antonio and Fair Oaks Ranch. The study, available for review here, was conducted by Texas A&M University’s Institute of Renewable Natural Resources. Coverage can be found in a separate posting on the Rivard Report here.

There was other business decided Thursday.

City Joins Toyota Field Purchase Effort

The Council unanimously passed a resolution that will partner City staff with Bexar County staff and Spurs Sports and Entertainment (SSE) to achieve a purchase agreement for Toyota Field, home to the North American Soccer League team, San Antonio Scorpions.

The stadium purchase-lease deal is intended to improve the chances of  landing a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise.

County Commissioners approved the same deal on Tuesday. The City and County each will pay $9 million to Gordon Hartman, owner of the Scorpions, Toyota Field and nearby Morgan’s Wonderland. The SSE will pay Hartman an additional $3 million.

The City and County will lease the stadium to SSE, which runs the Spurs, Silver Stars, and San Antonio Rampage minor-league hockey club, for an amount of money still to be determined. SSE will manage and operate the stadium, and pay $1 million for improvements. The City and County each will contribute $500,000 for improvements.

Gordon Hartman, San Antonio Scorpions team owner, hugs his daughter, Morgan, the namesake and inspiration, for Morgan's Wonderland following the 2-1 win in the NASL Championship game. Photo by Kristian Jaime.
Gordon Hartman, San Antonio Scorpions team owner, hugs his daughter, Morgan, the namesake and inspiration, for Morgan’s Wonderland at a game in November 2014. Photo by Kristian Jaime.

City leaders said it has been crucial for the Spurs to have a stake in trying to lure a second major professional sports franchise to San Antonio. SSE would have six years to accomplish that, or then be subject to a $5 million penalty, which would be paid to the City and County over eight years. SSE plans to have a United Soccer League team play at Toyota Field in the interim, resulting in an unknown future for the Scorpions.

Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first theme park designed especially for special-needs children, will feel the biggest immediate impact from this deal. Hartman told the Council there have been two long-term objectives with the Scorpions and the development of Toyota Field: Helping to bring MLS to town, and to bring attention to Morgan’s Wonderland, where expansion and new features are planned.

“Upon the end of this transaction, all of the funds will go to Morgan’s Wonderland,” Hartman said. Regarding the theme park’s success and growth, Hartman added: “The needs are there, and this will be a benefit to those with special needs.”

Mayor Ivy Taylor and Councilmembers Mike Gallagher (D10) and Joe Krier (D9) praised the public-private deal.

“This puts us on a creative pathway toward getting there (landing an MLS franchise),” Taylor said.

Air Service Incentives Enhanced

A family waves goodbye to a first time flyer. Photo by Scott Ball.
A family waves goodbye to a first time flyer at San Antonio International Airport. Photo by Scott Ball.

The Council unanimously approved changes in an incentives program meant to attract new airlines to the San Antonio market, and to add new nonstop air services.

Aviation Department Director Frank Miller told the Council the program would feature more incentive categories, including the waiving of fees associated with landings, terminal rentals and airfield usage. Fee waivers will now extend into the second year for carriers establishing based and focus operations at the San Antonio International Airport (SAT). Until now, the City has had no incentives for an airline setting up full shop at SAT.

Miller and Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1) said the incentives should lead to more nonstop flights, which are considered critical to business travel and pursuing economic development opportunities, especially in Mexico and Latin America.

“Mayor Taylor and the Council really saw firsthand the interest in creating more nonstop service to Mexico,” Treviño said, referencing City leaders’ recent economic development trip to Mexico.

Support for High-Rise Sprinkler Ordinance

A sprinkler system installed in the Rivard Report office in the Rand Building. Photo by Scott Ball.
A sprinkler system installed in the Rand building. Photo by Scott Ball.

The fire at the multi-story Wedgwood senior living complex in Castle Hills cost the lives of six residents in December 2014.  More than 150 firefighters from several municipalities, including the San Antonio Fire Department (SAFD), responded to the multi-alarm fire.

The event has compelled SAFD to redouble efforts to ensure local high-rise buildings are better equipped in the case of a fire. The Council unanimously approved the fire department’s plan to support retrofitting of San Antonio high-rises with sprinkler systems.  The Wedgwood was not equipped with such a system.

A new ordinance now requires owners of San Antonio high-rise residential and commercial buildings to retrofit their structure with sprinklers in phases over a 12-year period. The City’s high-rise inspector, a position created this new fiscal year, will review each retrofit.

Fire Chief Charles Hood told the Council that 35 high-rises in San Antonio City currently do not have sprinklers; eight of those buildings are residential, and the rest are commercial. More than 700 elderly and disabled individuals are currently living in such unprotected residential structures, which includes properties run by the San Antonio Housing Authority.

Hood said SAFD and other local public safety officials had spoken with residents, tenants and owners of local high-rises. They all agreed that while sprinklers can greatly help firefighters responding to a high-rise fire, the costs tend to hinder the installation of sprinklers, especially in older structures. Most retrofits cost between $2.50 to $4 per square foot, while a standpipe and fire pump can cost between $60,000 and $100,000.

“I realize this is a long time, but considering the costs, it’s going to take time,” said Hood. “But this is an opportunity to get the buildings retrofitted.”

Port SA Gets a New Tenant

The Council approved an Economic Development Incentive Fund Grant in addition to the accommodations designed to bring India-based company Indo-MIM to Port San Antonio.  Indo-MIM’s move will boost Port San Antonio and economic redevelopment efforts on the Southwest Side, as City officials seek to diversify the skilled local workforce. Accommodations include a reinvestment zone, a 10-year, 100% tax abatement based on a $24 million capital investment and the creation of 330 full-time jobs.

“You combine the attributes San Antonio has, with other economic structures such as the Air (Force) bases, it was clear to use you’re doing something not done in any other place,” Indo-MIM CEO Krishna Chivukula Jr. told the Council.

*Top image: An eye level Toyota Field expansion proposal rendering released in September of 2014.  Courtesy of the Scorpions FC Facebook page. 

Related Stories:

Water Report Author Fields Questions From City Council

India Firm to Create 300-Plus Jobs at Port SA

Morgan’s Wonderland to Add Water Park

City & County to Purchase Toyota Field in Bid for MLS Team

SAFD to Propose High-Rise Sprinkler Ordinance

Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.