The Spurs traded their jerseys for hard hats and shovels as Spurs Sports & Entertainment and local leaders broke ground on a new development called The Rock at La Cantera that will include a new training facility.

Construction on a state-of-the-art Spurs training center, a research institute, and medical office space located in the former rock quarry in far Northwest San Antonio has begun with the first phase expected to be complete in summer 2023. The development and its “human performance center” will feature a total of a half-million square feet of restaurant, retail, and commercial space.

Behind a backdrop of two Holt Cat excavators and with Six Flags theme park rides on the horizon, Spurs legends David Robinson and Sean Elliott joined Spurs CEO RC Buford, the team’s Coyote mascot, and others to celebrate the start of construction. 

“It’s called ‘The Rock’ because we’re going to come here — as [Coach Gregg Popovich] has shared with us for so long — to keep pounding the rock, to get better every day, to learn together and grow as a team,” Buford said. “The Rock at La Cantera will be our home.”  

Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford speaks at the groundbreaking of The Rock at La Cantera, a new human performance campus for the San Antonio Spurs.
Spurs CEO RC Buford speaks at the groundbreaking for The Rock at La Cantera, a new training campus for the San Antonio Spurs. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Buford said the inspiration behind the human performance center came from Andy Walshe, an expert in the field of elite human performance, including research and training to improve the abilities of athletes, the military, first responders and business teams.  

“We can now understand how people become extraordinary … at a level we’ve never had before,” Walshe said. “For the Spurs and the team and the players and coaches, [that means] that we bring their very best to the table every time they perform.

What Walshe called the “unique part of this facility and community” will involve community engagement and access to some of the same expertise available to professional athletes.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said in light of the nearly 5,000 lives lost in San Antonio to the pandemic — many because of underlying health conditions — the center and its green spaces will be key to addressing persistent health issues in the community.

In August, Bexar County commissioners approved a $15 million contribution toward the project and accepted the donation from the Spurs and the USAA Real Estate Co. of a 22-acre public park space next to The Rock. The San Antonio City Council later approved an agreement to contribute up to $17 million in tax rebates for the new development and practice facility.

As an investment in San Antonio’s economic development, Councilman Manny Pelaez, whose District 8 is where the center is located, said it was an easy decision to make because it’s not “just a facility for elite athletes,” he said. 

“This is a facility that is going to benefit all of San Antonio, and I’ll tell you who else I think is going to be really loving this … is the military,” Pelaez said. “I think the military is going to be an important component to this. Those guys are strategic and tactical athletes as well. Our police force, our firefighters — they are going to benefit from the research that you’re going to be doing here.”

Peter J. Holt, managing director of the Spurs organization since June and CEO of Holt Cat, said breaking ground on the center was an exciting day and represented a foundation that’s been in the city for many years.

“San Antonio is one of the most unique cities in the world, and the ecosystem and the values that San Antonio is built on — of selflessness, heritage, culture, diversity, a welcoming atmosphere and above all, unity — is very unique and very special,” Holt said. “And the Spurs and the whole family have always tried to represent that well, and be stewards of that community.”

Local officials and past and present members of the Spurs organization prepare to break ground at the groundbreaking of The Rock at La Cantera, a new human performance campus for the San Antonio Spurs.
Former San Antonio Spur David Robinson walks with County Judge Nelson Wolff and County Commissioner Trish DeBerry (Pct.3) for the groundbreaking for The Rock at La Cantera on Thursday. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

While the Spurs practice facility will be built first, the timeline for other parts of the development — which could include medical offices, multifamily residential property and a hotel — is not set. 

“The timeline is in process,” Holt said. “It’s really a multi-stakeholder development with USAA [Real Estate Company] being the lead. They’re the ones that own all this land.”

But because the Spurs have their part of the project ready to go, Holt said the partnership group felt it was important to get started and establish the Spurs as the core anchor of the campus. 

There’s much more to come for the development, Buford said. “We might never know when it’s finished.”

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.