This story has been updated.
A team of heavy hitters is working to buy land to build a baseball stadium in San Antonio, but have so far struck out.
Recent reports that representatives from the downtown development group founded by Graham Weston met with two property owners, the nonprofit Artpace and the owners of Alamo Toyota, have led to renewed interest in the future of baseball in San Antonio.
“It’s a group of prominent business people trying to see if they can make a deal,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. “I just don’t know whether they’re going to be able to do it or not.”
Wolff has long desired to see a baseball stadium constructed downtown, but the rising cost of land in the city center is making that field of dreams harder to come by.
Artpace owns a parking lot just under 1 acre in size on North Flores Street. Adjacent to the parking lot is another 2.3 acres of land in five parcels occupied only by a shuttered auto dealership.
That property is owned by an investor group led by John Toomey, president of Alamo City Motors, which owns Alamo Toyota. The lots are situated along West Martin Street bounded by Camaron and South Flores streets.
The Toomeys won’t sell, said Joe Boulos, assistant to the dealer and general manager of Alamo Toyota, despite being offered “crazy money” for those five acres.
Boulos said the Toomey family has been leasing the mostly vacant property to Frost Tower for parking. “They pay a pretty penny for renting the space,” he said.
Artpace representatives did not return calls from the San Antonio Report requesting more information. Director Riley Robinson told the San Antonio Heron, which first reported Weston Urban’s interest in the two properties, that Artpace plans to keep its parking lot.
The California-based Elmore Sports Group, which owns the San Antonio Missions and several other minor league baseball teams, has said that a new stadium is an integral part of its plan to transition the Missions and San Antonio to Triple-A, the highest level of play in minor league baseball.
The Missions spent the 2019 season at that level but was demoted back down to the Double-A level in 2021 as part of a realignment of minor league baseball. The team remains at the city-owned Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium, located on the Southwest Side.
In 2016, city officials commissioned a feasibility study to look into potential sites for a stadium.
Seven possible sites for a stadium in or near downtown were suggested in the study.
Though one of those sites, now occupied by San Antonio ISD central offices, is no longer a possibility, other parcels of land in the vicinity include the Toomey and Artpace properties, according to reports.
The Barrett study also looked at the home of the Institute of Texan Cultures, at 801 E. Cesar Chavez Blvd., as a possible site for the stadium. Whether that site will continue to house the museum dedicated to the state’s diverse ethnicities is an open question.
In June, University of Texas at San Antonio officials released a report on the future of the museum that discussed the possibility of moving the museum to another building at Hemisfair or to another location entirely.
Of the 30 Triple-A baseball stadiums in the U.S., three are in Texas: El Paso, Round Rock (near Austin) and Sugar Land (near Houston).
Capacity at Wolff Stadium is about 6,200 in fixed seats and another 3,000 on a grassy berm, while El Paso’s 8-year-old Southwest University Park, the downtown home of the Triple-A Chihuahuas, can accommodate about 9,500.
Wolff said he is glad the group of investors is focused on situating a stadium downtown and especially along the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, a linear park now under construction in downtown San Antonio.
“They’re trying and [I am] crossing my fingers it’ll work,” he said.
In November, Bexar County Commissioners approved spending $26.5 million for the design and construction of Phase 3 and Phase 4.1 of the park, funded mostly through federal reimbursements.
“When we invest in something, we like to see a payback,” Wolff said. “We’ve seen that numerous developments along the creek have done really well.”
The team of investors working to assemble the land for a stadium reports back to Wolff regularly, he said, but so far the group has not been successful in securing property for a proposed stadium. The reason: rising land costs.
“Twenty years ago, they could have probably bought it for nothing,” he said. “But now, downtown, with the housing policies that were instituted 15 years or so ago, something like 10,000 new housing units have been built. So it’s changed dramatically downtown.”
But there are other places to build a stadium, said Bexar County Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert in a statement.
“Spending taxpayer dollars on a minor league sports stadium does not make any sense when there are so many more pressing issues at the family kitchen table,” he said. “People are concerned with the high prices of gas, food, public safety and housing.”
Instead, Calvert wants to see the Artpace property and land along West Martin Street used for a project he is championing. The Link is a proposed quarter-mile linear park connecting the San Antonio River Walk to the San Pedro Creek project. It’s unclear how much support the project has, although $41.2 million was included for it in the county’s 2021-22 capital improvement budget.
Calvert said The Link “truly reflects our community’s broader vision,” something community and property owners are excited about.