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Early Success for San Antonio Scorpions Brings Changes to Stadium Plan

2012 June 11
by Brian Quarstad

Top image is new final phase of Scorpions planned stadium. The bottom rendering is the old final phase.

The San Antonio Scorpions are having a great debut season both on and off the field. On Saturday they defeated the Atlanta Silverbacks for their 5th win in 10 games, leap-frogging Minnesota and taking sole possession of 2nd place in the NASL,  just 1 point off of the league leading Puerto Rico Islanders.

The success the Scorpions have had on the field can be chalked up to coach Tim Hankinson and a budget from owner Gordon Hartman that has allowed him to get veteran players, many whom have spent time in MLS. But the off field success has been perhaps even more astonishing.

While lower level soccer has had it’s success stories in the past, they’ve been far and few between. The Scorpions who where told in a report funded by both Bexar County and the City of San Antonio, told owner Hartman that soccer would not fair well in the city and therefore he would receive no public funding to build a stadium. But Hartman had advisors that told him differently.

Hartman proceeded to get private funding for his new stadium and set about building that facility himself. That plan was presented in early January.

The average attendance for the Scorpions this season has been over 8,500 while playing in Heroes Stadium, a high school field with a track and football lines that holds 11,000. Hartman says the team has sold 3,000 season tickets and he’s concerned about the first phase of his stadium plan.

“That would fill up over half the stadium that we’re currently building,” Hartman said. “So that’s why where there has been some consideration – Do we go to phase two already?”

Hartman says he could yet accelerate the stadium build more but needs to continue to observe attendance.

The Scorpions front office is staffed by Play Book International (PMI) employees which is owned and operated by Michael Hitchcock who is also president of the Scorpions. In a recent interview Hitchcock told IMS that all of of the ten front office staff are PMI contract employees and seven of those ten are PMI executives with ticket sales experience.

While not a lot has changed in the first several phases of the stadium build, the overall look of the venue has changed at full capacity with a more horseshoe shape and more intimate seating then the original plan.

Gordon Hartman will be our guest on this weeks edition of the IMSoccer News NASL Podcast.

Old plan has 5 phases.

Phase I – 6100 seats, 16 VIP suites.

Phase II – 9,000 seats, 16 VIP suites.

Phase III – 11,000 seats, 34 VIP suites.

Phase IV– 14,000 seats, 34 VIP suites.

Phase V – 18,000 seats, 34 VIP suites.

New plan changes to 4 phases.

Phase I – 6169 seats, 16 VIP suites.

Phase II – 8,000 seats, 16 VIP suites.

Phase III – 12,000 seats, 32 VIP suites.

Phase IV – 18,500 seats, 32 VIP suites.

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11 Responses
  1. Footy76 permalink
    June 11, 2012

    I like to see the stadium have 20,000 seats . I think they could do it and grow thier attendance.

  2. Brad permalink
    June 11, 2012

    I think that’s awesome!

  3. June 11, 2012

    I agree, a 20,000 seat stadium would give US Soccer more incentive to host international friendlies and US qualifiers, not to mention the possibility to host top European clubs. The city should get behind any plan to build a 20,000 seat SSS as the market has proven itself to be there.

  4. ERic permalink
    June 11, 2012

    Ah. I see. Six games = market has proven itself.

    ;)

    I’m glad that San Antonio’s done a redesign on their stadium (though I wonder at the intelligence of putting most of the seats on the sunny side of the stadium), and glad that Hartman is contemplating jumping right to Phase II. But numbers haven’t stabilized yet. We don’t yet know what the real base is. Though 3k season tickets is pretty impressive, more than some MLS teams, that’s not enough to guarantee adding the Phase II end seating.

    The best cautionary tale is the Rochster Rhino’s stadium. Rochester came roaring out of the gate, drawing 10k a game, and did so eight straight years. I don’t know, off the top of my head, when they moved to their new stadium that they had built for them, one with a capacity of 13,768. Probably 2006, when the stadium opened.

    Rochester’s attendance has dropped every year since then, only drawing 5137 per game last year.

    Yes, San Antonio has had a strong start. But six games is a fraction of what’s needed to have any sense of where they are going and whether it’s worth building a 20k seater. We can revisit this after the 2015 season, if San Antonio has a season ticket base of 6.5k, a waiting list, and are breaking ground on Phase III.

  5. June 11, 2012

    Wait, what? The market for a 20k stadium has proven itself? By a team averaging less than half that? Over the course of 90 days?

    20k would be bigger than stadiums in Denver, Kansas City and Philadelphia and only New York and LA would be substantially larger among MLS stadiums.

    And there are a limited number of friendlies and qualifiers for the US and a great many stadiums capable of hosting them. The last 58 US men’s games on home soil (including the two upcoming qualifiers) have been played at exactly 27 stadiums. 38 of the games have been played in huge NFL/college type stadiums, and of the 19 played in MLS-sized SSSs, almost half have been at the Home Depot Center.

    San Antonio wouldn’t be hugely likely to get a whole lot of national team games, just like most stadiums in this country don’t get a whole lot of national team games.

  6. Kel permalink
    June 11, 2012

    Have to agree with ERic. Six games does not mean a market has proven itself. And attendance is trending downward now that some of the excitement of finally having a team is wearing off. Although that was expected. The question is where does it bottom out?

    Remember, Hartman is going to be getting a lot of bills soon. The money from the budget Hartman gave the Scorpions will have to come from somewhere. Here is where owning a minor league soccer team sucks.

    And no way does the city get behind a plan for a 20k upgrade unless MLS is involved. And probably not even then.

  7. June 11, 2012

    I’m hoping this graph shows up properly, it is only for rhetorical purposes.

    Population Comparison

    As of 2012, I’m almost certain that the population for San Antonio is over 2 million, that makes SA the seventh largest city in the United States. Yes, you are correct six games does not prove anything. However, need I remind you, before San Antonio ever played a game, the same argument was stated and look where they are now.

    Outside of soccer, the ‘market’ has proven itself to be stable given the success the NBA has had in San Antonio. One more professional franchise can be supported.

    To Kel’s point, I absolutely agree, the MLS does need to get involved. My argument only makes sense, in terms of an MLS club. For the NASL, I think you’re right, it will bottom out, especially if winning also trends downward which is something a lot of people expected to happen. So I’ll give it to the Scorpions for proving a lot of people wrong, but they still have a lot to do. I feel that it will take the MLS to awaken this sleeping giant.

    Thoughts?

  8. Taylor permalink
    June 12, 2012

    How many attendees were actually paying attendees ? Did they heavily discount the tickets price ? Did they give away most of the tickets ? It’s way too early.

  9. Tom permalink
    June 12, 2012

    If I understand this correctly, these are just plans? For a stadium to be built in phases over many years if the necessity to increase the capacity is there? That is just a revision of a design that was created before they played one game? Sounds like smart business planning which is probably why Hartman is rich and a successful businessman and most of us aren’t. I suggest everyone take a deep breath and count to ten…

    @Andrew,
    Yes, San Antonio might be the 7th largest “city” in the country, but it is the 24th largest metropolitan area (which is what truly matters). To put this in perspective, so are you saying that San Antonio is twice as big as San Francisco and bigger than Dallas?
    I do agree that they are more than capable of becoming a major soccer city and the success of the Spurs is proof that they can easily support a top level club.

  10. brando permalink
    June 12, 2012

    As a San Antonio resident, i have been pleasantly surprised at the reception our team has gotten locally. That being said, it is certainly too early to predict how attendance will be two years from now. Regardless, the stadium is already being built. We get to keep a close eye on it because it’s next to their current stadium. So yes, it’s too early to say definitively that San Antonio will end up in MLS, but i applaud Hartman’s ambition. Minor-league soccer is a tough sell in any city. So far, so good though.

  11. June 12, 2012

    I agree brando, it is a tough sell.

    Not sure if everyone who is commenting on this thread has checked out the podcast interview we did with Gordon Hartman on Monday night. That interview is now up and is pretty interesting. Check it out.

    http://www.insidemnsoccer.com/2012/06/11/nasl-podcast-episode-35-with-special-guest-gordon-hartman-owner-of-the-san-antonio-scorpions/

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