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Saying 'no' to the Spurs (a primer for San Antonio's business and political leaders)

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"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling going on in here!" — Captain Renault to Rick in Casablanca, 1942.

Let's get real. The deal that the SAISD board passed last week to revamp Alamo Stadium in order to accommodate a professional soccer field has nothing to do with educating kids. It has nothing to do with equity. It has nothing to do with generating more revenue for the school district. It's a deal for the Spurs.

"Alamo Stadium's future could be as a pro soccer, entertainment and high school sports facility managed by Spurs Sports & Entertainment, the holding company that owns the Spurs, Silver Stars and Rampage." That's from a story in the Express-News dated March 6, 2010. So a plan for professional soccer at Alamo Stadium shouldn't be a surprise to anyone in town — it was initiated by Spurs Sports & Entertainment, Leo Gomez, and Peter Holt years ago. The SAISD board is simply doing the Spurs bidding, with our money.

It's not as if SAISD and the board don't have anything else to be concerned about: Like a declining student enrollment, shrinking inner-city population, weak test scores, poor graduation rates, and sub par academic performance. But all of that is secondary to accommodating the Spurs and professional soccer.

Why are the Spurs so enthralled with soccer at Alamo Stadium? In a word: Money. Lots and lots of money.

It's not as if we haven't supported them with one deal after another: building the AT&T Center for them, financing improvements at the Center with $75 million in "venue tax" bond funds. The Spurs are used to getting good deals. Like when they pressed for a new arena after playing in the Alamodome. They were turned down for a deal at the Longhorn Quarry near I-35. Then they turned down the deal from then Mayor Howard Peak for a new arena next to the dome. They chose instead an offer by County Judge Cindi Krier for a new arena by the Freeman Coliseum that lets them control the arena for 11 months of the year with events that compete directly with those at the Alamodome.

Now they want a soccer stadium for a professional soccer team. But they obviously don't want to pay to build a stadium. Not with their money. So they'll get SAISD to pay for it, so that they can make more money.
We have a long history in this town of passing public deals to help private interests and developers make money, from tax abatements for hotels and theme parks to palm trees along Houston Street. But if this community — and especially the inner city — has any hope of progress, we desperately need to educate our kids, particularly the ones who start with less.

It's SAISD that needs money, and resources, and help.

It's SAISD that deserves a school board that puts education first. And if the SAISD board and Ed Garza don't understand that, they have to be educated. So let's just say "no soccer at Alamo Stadium."
Let's start by having District One Councilmember Diego Bernal say "no" to a change in zoning.

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