Bexar County will pay for the use of the AT&T Center as a polling location, but not the original $255,000 charged by Spurs Sports & Entertainment.
Bexar County commissioners voted Tuesday to pay $126,204 for using the AT&T Center as a mega-vote site in the November election. Last year, Spurs Sports & Entertainment billed Bexar County $255,000 for using the county-owned facility as an election site. The amount was significantly reduced after an audit requested by the county manager was completed.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that the “extraordinary circumstances” of running an election during the coronavirus pandemic would be accompanied by atypical costs.
“We were under a lot more stress in conducting this election in Texas than maybe what other states were because the governor did not provide for a face mask to be worn in an election, so it took extra precautions to protect our staff and protect other people,” Wolff said.
The County paid $6,906 to supply the AT&T Center with personal protective equipment. The rest of the costs were associated with personnel.
The bill still puts San Antonio’s NBA arena as one of the most expensive when compared to other teams’ stadiums that were used as voting locations, and likely the most expensive Texas NBA arena. The Houston Rockets billed Harris County $4,346 to use the Toyota Center during early voting and on Election Day. The Dallas Mavericks declined to provide the amount requested from Dallas County for using the American Airlines Center as an election site, but the team did not charge Collin County for using the Comerica Center, where the Mavericks’ developmental league affiliate Texas Legends play.
The County will pay Spurs Sports & Entertainment subsidiary Community Arena Management for election costs associated with labor and equipment costs.
The bulk of the $126,204 bill will go to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, which provided security and traffic control at the voting site. Commissioner Trish DeBerry (Pct. 3) questioned those costs, which were $44,887 and $36,931, respectively.
“The line item that troubles me a little bit is the security and traffic, because I personally was out at Brook Hollow [Library] which is one of the No. 1 voting precincts in the county,” she said. “And granted, it’s a smaller site than what the AT&T Center is, but there was a constable that was out there but I didn’t see one sheriff’s deputy so … manpower, allocation of resources – there probably needs to be a better effort … associated with that.”
Bobby Perez, SS&E’s senior vice president for general counsel and corporate relations, said that the sheriff’s office has been providing security and traffic since the Spurs started using the AT&T Center, with line workers making $33 an hour and supervisors making $37 an hour.
“The goal was to make sure that we had not only a large site but a very safe site with traffic with activation and with execution,” he said.
Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) thanked Perez and the Spurs for setting up the election site, and added that the lure of voting at the Spurs’ home arena helped create a more “festive atmosphere.”
“People were excited about getting out to the AT&T Center just to be part of that, so I just want to commend you, [Spurs Sports & Entertainment CEO] RC Buford, and your team because I know there was some criticism for this, but the reality was the feedback that we received was very positive,” Rodriguez said. “Everything ran smoothly.”
About $82,000 of the bill will be paid for with federal coronavirus relief funding, while County staff plans to cover the remaining $43,000 with funding from the recently signed $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, according to Thomas Guevara, chief of staff to the county manager. Bexar County expects to receive $388.6 million from that stimulus package, known as the American Rescue Plan.
County commissioners also voted to allow County Manager David Smith to negotiate a contract with Guidehouse Inc., a consulting company that would provide the county with “guidance and compliance services” when deciding how to spend federal dollars and what expenditures are permitted under federal guidelines. The company also works with Harris County, Travis County, and Tarrant County.