The San Antonio Spurs will return the NBA to Mexico, and have touted the potential for the league’s record regular season game attendance, after confirming plans for four out-of-market home games during the 2022-23 season.
The announcement today (Wednesday) comes ahead of the unveiling of the full NBA schedule, with the Spurs’ venture to take in one game in Mexico City, a 50th anniversary celebration at the Alamodome stadium in San Antonio and two in Austin.
As part of the organisation’s efforts to deepen their fanbase and better reach their supporters, the Spurs will also commemorate their 50th anniversary with a season-long run of events. The four out-of-market home games will be spread throughout the season, starting when the Spurs play in Mexico City at Arena CDMX on December 17.
The game against the Miami Heat will mark the first NBA Mexico City game since 2019 and the league’s 31st game in Mexico overall, more than any country outside the U.S. and Canada.
The Spurs made their debut in Mexico in October 1994 with two preseason games at the Palacio de los Deportes. Overall, the Spurs have played six games in Mexico, most recently a 121-119 overtime win against the Phoenix Suns as part of the NBA Mexico City Games 2019.
The Spurs will make a historic return to the Alamodome (pictured), its home from 1993 to 2002, on January 13. With a capacity of 65,000-plus for the Dome, the Spurs said they are poised to break the attendance record for an NBA regular season game.
The Spurs will travel to Austin for a pair of games on April 6 and April 8 at the new Moody Center arena. The franchise’s remaining 37 home games will be played at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
Today’s announcement comes after the Spurs in May were given the initial green light to play more home games away from AT&T Center, whilst being warned against using the decision as a means to explore potential relocation.
The Spurs have played at AT&T Center 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 (£69.6m/€82.5m) to $130m for breaking it, depending on the year.
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. With a 3-2 vote, Bexar County commissioners approved the increase, but only for one season initially.
“Hosting these four games is part of our vision to purposefully engage and celebrate our entire Spurs following from Mexico to Austin, while fostering the next generation of fans,” RC Buford, CEO for Spurs Sports & Entertainment, said today.
“Playing in front of our Austin fans for the first time ever during the regular season, returning to Mexico City and hosting a historic celebration in the Alamodome will each be exciting moments for our entire organisation.
“We are grateful for our loyal supporters throughout our entire region and are thrilled for the opportunity to play in front of them as part of our 50th anniversary season.”
For the NBA, today’s announcement continues the league’s efforts to return to international play following the COVID-19 shutdown.
The NBA Mexico City Game 2022 will mark the 30th anniversary of the league’s first game in the country, which featured the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks playing a preseason game at Palacio de los Deportes in October 1992.
The NBA will return to Europe for the first time in three years after announcing plans in May for a regular-season game between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons at the Accor Arena in Paris on January 19, 2023.
Accor Arena hosted the NBA’s first regular-season game in Paris back in January 2020 as the Charlotte Hornets met the Milwaukee Bucks. The pandemic has meant that the league has not returned to Europe since.
Earlier in May, the NBA confirmed plans to stage two pre-season games at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena in October. The games between the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks will take place on October 6 and October 8 and will mark the league’s first-ever fixtures in the Arabian Gulf.
In March, the NBA announced plans for two pre-season games in Japan in September and October, which will mark the league’s first fixtures outside of North America since the Accor Arena game in January 2020. The Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards will play two games at the Saitama Super Arena on September 30 and October 2.
Image: Michael Barera/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size