Field of Dreams
As talk has been rekindled about an NFL franchise relocating to San Antonio, speculation has surfaced about where that team might play. Some of that speculation has centered on what essentially is the center point between San Antonio and Austin: the fast-growing suburb of San Marcos.
Giving rise to that chatter is a story from sports website Bleacher Report indicating that Mark Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders — an NFL team shopping for a new home — has purchased land somewhere between San Antonio and Austin that purportedly could be the site of a new stadium for the Raiders. Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole says the Davis parcel “splits the difference” between San Antonio and Austin. Translation: Someplace in or near San Marcos is the likely spot.
In interviews with CultureMap, officials in San Marcos and Austin say they aren’t aware of such a land deal. Officials in San Antonio also seem to be in the dark, according to media reports.
Whatever the situation with the land, local officials say they’d be delighted to extend an invitation to an NFL team and explore construction of a stadium in our region.
Given its prime location along I-35 and between Austin and San Antonio, San Marcos would be a “natural play” for an NFL stadium, says Lance Aldridge, executive director of the Austin Sports Commission.
“I think it would be an exciting proposal,” Aldridge says of an NFL team and stadium in San Marcos. “We’d kill to have that.”
Adriana Cruz, president of the Greater San Marcos Partnership, a regional economic development agency, says an NFL stadium in San Marcos would align with her nonprofit’s stated goal of accommodating “destination attractions,” such as a major-league sports venue or an amusement park. She also says a stadium would complement San Marcos’ various amenities, particularly the two outlet malls, which collectively draw about 14 million visitors a year.
“Could we be home to a major stadium? Absolutely,” Cruz says.
An NFL stadium in San Marcos is “certainly something that makes a lot of sense — a lot of logistical sense, a lot of economic sense,” she says.
San Marcos sits about 30 miles south of Austin, the 11th largest city in the U.S., and about 40 miles north of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the U.S. The Austin-San Antonio region is home to more than 4.3 million residents but just one major-league team: the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Experts say either the San Antonio metro area or the Austin metro area alone could support an NFL team, but situating an NFL stadium where those areas overlap undoubtedly would fortify the fan base.
For now, it’s impossible to say precisely how much land Davis might have purchased between Austin and San Antonio. But it is safe to say that a stadium project would require dozens of acres. As a means of comparison, U.S. Bank Stadium, under construction as the new home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, will stand on a 38-acre site.
Of course, an NFL stadium in the Austin-San Antonio corridor would come with a hefty price tag: likely more than $1 billion. The NFL’s newest venue — Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers — cost close to $1.3 billion. Next month, Levi’s Stadium will host Super Bowl 50.
As officials in our region salivate over the possibility of hosting an NFL team, the fate of the Oakland Raiders remains up in the air. The Raiders had sought to move to Los Angeles, but that proposal has been scrapped, and Davis now suggests that he’s not inclined to keep his team in Oakland. NFL owners approved the St. Louis Rams' move to a planned stadium in Los Angeles and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in LA a year later.
Amid the Raiders-Chargers-Rams drama and the buzz about the Oakland team possibly packing up for Texas, Aldridge cautions that the owners of the Lone Star State’s two NFL teams — the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans — might balk at the idea, as a third team could cannibalize their fan bases. Furthermore, he says, Davis merely could be dangling a hypothetical move to Texas as a bargaining chip with Oakland.
“I can’t say it can’t be done,” Aldridge says of an NFL presence in the Austin-San Antonio corridor, “but there are a lot of challenges.”