San Antonio Spurs gain approval for games away from AT&T Center

The San Antonio Spurs have been given the initial green light to play more home games away from AT&T Center, but have been warned against using the decision as a means to explore potential relocation.

The NBA basketball franchise has played at AT&T Center (pictured) in San Antonio since the arena opened in 2002. AT&T Center is owned by Bexar County and a non-relocation agreement is in place through the 2031-32 season which holds penalties ranging from $84m (£67.1m/€79.8m) to $130m for breaking it, depending on the year.

Although the team has yet to activate it, the contract includes a clause allowing it to play two of its 41 regular season home games away from AT&T Center. Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E), the team’s ownership group, had sought to increase this limit to four games for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 campaigns.

One game in Mexico City, one at the Alamodome, the Spurs’ former home before the move to AT&T Center, and two others within a 100-mile radius, potentially in Austin, where the new Moody Center last month staged its first events, had been targeted.

With a 3-2 vote yesterday (Tuesday), Bexar County commissioners approved the increase, but only for one season initially.

“That’s not a good sign. Alright?” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff told SS&E chief legal officer Bobby Perez after the vote, according to local broadcaster KSAT. “It shows you that there’s a divided opinion in this community as to the intention of the Spurs, that there’s a lot of concern about just what the heck you’re doing.”

Perez said a Mexico City game is being targeted for December as part of an NBA-sponsored event, with an Alamodome game being sought as part of 50th anniversary season celebrations in 2022-23. He added that SS&E has held talks with the Moody Center, but a deal is not in place.

Amid concerns over the Spurs’ long-term commitment to San Antonio, SS&E CEO R.C. Buford released a statement on Monday in which he said: “San Antonio has been home for five decades and the organisation will continue to innovate, positioning the Spurs to thrive in San Antonio for the next 50 years.”

Perez added yesterday: “As the chief legal officer and general counsel of all our companies, our commitment is we are staying in San Antonio.”

Image: Bradford Fults/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size