The move, contingent upon USL approval, follows the sale of Toyota Field from Scorpions owner Gordon
Hartman to the City of San Antonio and Bexar County for $18 million.
As part of the agreement, SS&E has donated $3 million to Morgan’s Wonderland, a special needs theme park established by Hartman. SS&E agreed to a 20-year lease to run all operations within Toyota Field, while also pursuing an MLS franchise.
“The City and County’s purchase of Toyota Field is the first step toward bringing a Major League Soccer team to San Antonio,” said Mayor Ivy R. Taylor in a statement. “Spurs Sports & Entertainment is recognized as one of the best professional sports businesses and we are fortunate to have them as a partner in this effort. Today’s announcement marks significant progress toward achieving our shared goal.”
MLS's intentions to expand beyond 24 teams has accelerated the interest of San Antonio. Toyota Field opened in April 2013 and has a capacity of 8,500. It would have to be expanded to meet MLS requirements. SS&E will also operate the South Texas Area Regional (STAR) Soccer Complex, which is located adjacent to Toyota Field. STAR Soccer Complex includes 13 fields that provide resources for many local youth soccer organizations and adult recreational leagues.
"Our goal," said Hartman, "was to field a team that would compete for championships while supporting those with special needs via a unique, unprecedented relationship where all net profits from the Scorpions and S.T.A.R. Soccer Complex were given directly to non-profit Morgan's Wonderland, the world's only fully accessible theme park. With two regular-season trophies, an NASL championship in 2014, a beautiful soccer-specific stadium, and over $1,000,000 raised for Morgan's Wonderland to benefit special-needs individuals, I'm proud to say that we've been successful."
The USL had 24 clubs in 2015 and has previously announced the addition of clubs in the Rio Grande Valley, Cincinnati, Lehigh Valley, Orlando and Kansas City for the 2016 season and Reno for the 2017 season. Austin will sit out of the 2016 season because flooding at the Aztex's home stadium left them without a suitable venue. The USL was to operate with 28 teams in 2016. San Antonio's late addition would make it 29.
In a statement, the NASL said it was working with Hartman to determine the future of the Scorpions, who joined the league in 2012 and have consistently been one of its best-operated teams.
'Every sports league in North America has experienced turnover in its early stages," it said, "and the NASL is fortunate to have a group of owners and league officials that has a tremendous understanding of how to work through change. Ownership and investment interest is at an all-time high, and we expect to be a 20-team league in the near future."