The San Antonio City Council approved an agreement with the San Antonio Spurs organization Thursday to contribute up to $17 million in tax rebates for a proposed new development and practice facility on the far Northwest Side.
The Chapter 380 Economic Development Grant Agreement with Spurs, Sports & Entertainment (SS&E) includes a 20-year, 60% tax rebate and a five-year recapture period to support construction of a total $510 million Human Performance Research Center (HPRC) and other public and commercial spaces.
The development is being led by SS&E, in partnership with the Dallas-based real estate services firm Lincoln Property Company, and will feature half-a-million square feet of restaurant, retail, and commercial space, including the state-of-the-art Spurs Performance Center, a research institute, outdoor plaza, and retail and medical office space.
It has been billed as an assembly of thought leaders and local institutions for a “next-generation” training environment that will benefit both professional athletes and the community.
“This is an incredibly important project, I believe, for our city and our county and our community,” said Spurs CEO R.C. Buford. “We believe that what we can develop in design and research, and in the aggregate by the people we can bring together through this campus, will have the impact on human humans and humanity.”
Under the terms of the city’s agreement, SS&E is required to invest at least $246 million in the project and create 15 new, full-time jobs with an annual salary of at least $50,000. The revenue city officials estimate from the project’s property and sales taxes and job creation over 25 years is $39 million.
In August, Bexar County commissioners approved a $15 million contribution toward the project and accepted the donation of a 22-acre public park space next to the HPRC. At the time, Bobby Perez, executive vice president and general counsel of SS&E, said the development team plans to start construction this fall.
The project is to be developed at La Cantera, a 1,200-acre former rock quarry located at Loop 1604 and Interstate 10 owned and developed by USAA Real Estate. The large piece of undeveloped property is considered a “catalytic project site” in the UTSA Regional Center Plan, adopted by the council in Oct. 2019.
“This is unlike anything that we’ve done before, in that we have introduced and been able to negotiate development standards within an incentive agreement,” said City Manager Erik Walsh.
The developer has committed to enhanced water quality standards and tree preservation ordinances, despite the site being grandfathered and not subject to those codes. The Spurs organization plans to work with the SA Ready to Work program, provide college internships and high school shadow programs, and spend $1.3 million on public art at the site.
The development also will include a public park that the basketball franchise plans to donate to Bexar County and manage by agreement similar to the one the Spurs organization has with the AT&T Center and Toyota Field.
City staff recommended approving the agreement and most council members spoke in favor of the proposed project and incentive package.
“We have built a longstanding tradition here in San Antonio that is near 50 years, five championships and a sixth ring that we’re pursuing, and what we do is we back the silver and the black,” said District 3 Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran.
District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez noted the proximity of the development to the South Texas Medical Center and Camp Bullis, both in his district, and that the Spurs already operate a training facility in the area.
He also emphasized that the Spurs are only a part of the overall project which will attract institutions and experts in health and human development. “There are going to be a lot of other companies and players involved here who are going to contribute to the success of this project, and that shouldn’t be discounted either,” Pelaez said.
But District 2 Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez said he could not support the proposal based on environmental and economic concerns.
“On one hand, I very much appreciate all of the efforts that went into ensuring the best deal possible, and on the other hand, I’m pretty opposed to incentivizing economic development over the [Edwards Aquifer] recharge zone,” McKee-Rodriguez said. “I have to state that the Spurs have been an amazing, amazing community partner on the East Side and in the city and I have no doubt that they will continue to be — incentives or not.”
McKee-Rodriguez also said he was “not necessarily impressed” at the promised salary levels which are less than 100% of the area median income ($55,900 for a three-person household).
District 9 Councilman John Courage said he believes that economic development should pay for itself, but he would support the agreement because it funds infrastructure development the City would ordinarily pay for.
“What we’re saying is that this group is going to put in streets and sidewalks and necessary drainage and infrastructure at their expense over the next 25 years and the city is simply going to reimburse them out of the taxes they pay to us,” Courage said.
Calling the agreement a great model in public-private partnerships, District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo said she thinks it’s important to ensure that any time such a sizable project is presented to the council, it provides benefits to every district.
The city began talks with the Spurs about a project centered on human performance research a couple of years ago, and not just for professional athletes, said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. The center’s work also will be focused on recovery for soldiers and first responders, he said.
“That kind of work is groundbreaking, it’s catalytic, it’s something that’s needed all across the world and to have San Antonio, which has its own growing premier place in the world in that research, is something that we should continue to lean into.”