Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said Tuesday he wants to use state money to cover the remaining costs, nearly $175 million, of the Alamo redevelopment.
“We’re all in at the state level,” Patrick told a crowd that gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for the $15 million Alamo exhibition hall and collections building, the first piece of the Alamo overhaul, slated for completion next year.
The Texas Legislature will consider and allocate the funds in 2023, he said, “Lord willing.”
An additional $174 million is needed to fully fund the estimated $388 million project. The state has already committed $150 million toward the total cost. The Alamo Trust, the site’s nonprofit steward, will continue to fundraise.
“I don’t want this project to wait on having to raise $200 to $300 million,” Patrick said. “[That] doesn’t mean we don’t want people to help [by donating]. … I want to get the job done.”
Kate Rogers, executive director of the Alamo Trust, told the San Antonio Report the organization is grateful for the public money pledged so far, calling the state “our single largest investor.”
“With the leadership and generosity of Lt. Gov. Patrick, Commissioner Bush, Judge Wolff, and Mayor Nirenberg, we also have a responsibility to do all that we can to secure support from the private sector as well,” she said via text message. “We remain committed to our goal of raising up to $150 million for this incredible project.”
Before the exhibition hall groundbreaking, Patrick entertained the crowd of about 150 by reciting in full, apparently from memory, the lyrics of the Ballad of the Alamo, composed by Ukrainian-born Dimitri Tiomkin and recorded by country singer Marty Robbins.
As the redevelopment moves forward, Patrick asked that politics be put aside, as those defending the Alamo did during the famous 1863 battle. “There weren’t discussing politics inside these walls. … They were standing side by side, fighting,” he said.
Politics, however, have never been far from the modern Alamo fight. In July, Patrick told Bullock Texas State History Museum officials to shut down a panel discussion about a book, Forget the Alamo, that re-examines the site’s history and the role of slavery in the war for Texas independence. The move boosted the book’s sales and touched off a debate about free speech and history.
Patrick obliquely referenced the dust-up at the groundbreaking. “There’s a lot of people trying to rewrite American history today,” he said.
Alamo planners have said that the museum and grounds will tell the complete story of the site — including uncomfortable truths about how slavery figured in the Texas Revolution.
The exhibition hall will store and display the Alamo Trust’s 2,000-piece artifact collection, in addition to more than 430 pieces collected by rock musician Phil Collins.
The Alamo Master Plan — a result of a partnership among the City of San Antonio, Texas General Land Office, and the trust — has been on the drawing board since 2014. The latest plan and lease agreement were approved by City Council in April.
In addition to building the exhibition hall, officials plan to retrofit three historic buildings across Alamo Plaza into a visitor center and museum, convert Alamo Hall into an education center and the gift shop into an event center, and make improvements to the plaza. North Alamo Street will be closed from East Houston Street to East Crockett Street and close again from Crockett to Commerce Street to create a promenade entry point to the plaza.
All told, the project will be funded from local, state, and private money. Originally, the project was expected to cost $450 million, when plans included moving the Cenotaph. The decision last year by the Texas Historical Commission to keep the monument in place led to the resignation of several wealthy potential donors from the Alamo Trust and sent the plan back to the drawing board. The current, less costly plan emerged earlier this month.
Under this latest plan, there won’t be any walls or barriers around the plaza and its surface won’t be lowered as originally proposed.
During his remarks at the groundbreaking, Mayor Ron Nirenberg acknowledged the challenges and controversies the project has faced.
“It’s not a small feat to have a shovel in the middle of the Alamo,” he said. “The beginning of this construction project is literal proof that the Alamo plan is now becoming a reality.”
Construction is slated to begin next month, officials said.
“The fact that we are celebrating success today and not necessarily controversy is a step in the right direction,” said Bexar County Commissioner Trish DeBerry (Pct. 3).
In May, the county pledged $25 million to the project over five years. That is contingent on those funds being matched by other sources, DeBerry said.
“This historic site, moving forward, will no longer be an underwhelming experience,” she said. “It will be more meaningful and it will be more memorable for both tourists
and locals alike.”