Hemisfair Arena (1968)

On April 6, 1968 San Antonio officials opened the doors on what was then known as the Convention Center Arena. As part of the collection of new construction that helped San Antonio remake it’s downtown core and host Hemisfair ’68, what would come to be known as Hemisfair Arena was a bit of a speculative venture. There was, after all, no regular tenant to call Hemisfair Arena home.

After five years of waiting, however, the speculation paid off. In October of 1973, the newly minted Spurs (who had previously been known as the Dallas Chaparrals) of the American Basketball Association (ABA) set up shop in San Antonio. Although the Spurs got off to an inauspicious start, losing to the San Diego Conquistadors in front of a half-empty arena, the foundation had been laid for what has now become a nearly 40-year journey of civic pride and sporting success.

San Antonio Spurs of the ABA

History often repeats itself and those with enough gumption to pay attention can occasionally see such repeats on the horizon.

On February 29th, ground will be broken on Scorpions Stadium, the future soccer-specific home of San Antonio Scorpions FC, the Gordon Hartman owned NASL franchise that starts play in April. The stadium will have 6,100 seats and be the first of a potential five-phase plan (Phase I – Phase V), which could see the stadium grow to accommodate over 18,000 spectators for top-flight soccer.

Scorpions Stadium - Phase I (2013)

The Scorpions will begin play this year at adjacent Heroes Stadium, a high school football venue. It is, admittedly, not ideal. No soccer fan will gush over a game played on an American football field where area 15 year-olds miss tackles and kick field goals. Some might consider such an inauspicious beginning troubling, but those with an eye for history might think twice. San Antonio sports fans know a bit about such beginnings and the possibilities that exist just a few years down the line. Forty years of championship celebrations and exhilarating entertainment make the early ABA days seem like fond family memories no matter how many empty seats and air-balls there were.

No matter the trajectory of the Scorpions, one thing is certain: San Antonio will have a first-class soccer-specific venue in which to enjoy the beautiful game in 2013. The NASL Scorpions will call it home and San Antonio’s soccer supporters, especially those of us who proudly call ourselves Crocketteers, will claim it as our own as well.

But what of the future, of that trajectory that compels the franchise to plan for “Phase V”? What about the long-term prospects for something even more substantial, for MLS in San Antonio?

In June of 1976, the ABA merged with the more successful and more stable National Basketball Association. The NBA absorbed several ABA teams with strong ownership and viable arenas serving as two of the key qualifying factors.

One can only hope that the Spurs experience can be replicated, that perhaps 8 years after finishing the new Scorpions Stadium, a call from the preeminent American soccer league, MLS, might ensue. The Scorpions certainly boast of strong ownership and with the dirt ready to turn on the new stadium, the viability of the local side’s grounds will not be in question.

It is that new stadium that has the soccer community buzzing. The 6100 seat Phase I alone would be enough to send tears of joy down the fervent supporters cheeks. To have a home for the sport is to have legitimacy and stability. But drying the tears of Phase I in order to be able to clearly gaze on the renderings of Phase V of the Scorpions Stadium project, complete with a major league number of seats and suites, is enough to absolutely send chills down the spine. What if…

Phase V of Scorpions Stadium

Perhaps those heady days are ahead. The Scorpions have so far shown to be willing to back up every bold pronouncement they make, wowing the faithful and converting the skeptics. After an appetizing year at Heroes Stadium, the 2013 San Antonio Scorpions will launch into an entirely new era of San Antonio soccer.

At the very least, San Antonio will have entered the soccer scene with legitimacy and an eye peering towards a bright future. In our wildest dreams? San Antonio will be one step closer to Phase V, to national soccer prominence, and to the top-flight MLS aspirations that so many, including Gordon Hartman, believe are in the Scorpions future.

It all begins when the first shovel turns dirt on February 29th, 2012.

10 438

10 thoughts on “Breaking Ground: Scorpions Stadium and the Path to Prominence

  1. David Salas 6 years ago

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare the Spus story to the Scorpions at all. The Spurs joined a growing league in need of teams (NBA). The MLS is not currently looking to expand at the rate the NBA did in the past.

    Besides a new stadium, there is something else that the Scorpions will need before they joined the MLS ($$$) Lots of it…Lots.

    Does anybody know how long it will take between phase I and II?

  2. Sam Stewart 6 years ago

    I agree with David. This isn’t a fair comparison at all. There was 0 competition for the Spurs in the SA market, and we still almost lost the team at least twice. It took 3 hall of famers, and 30 years for the Spurs to finally get to the point where we didn’t here rumors of them moving every now and then.

    Without the support of some people with deeper pockets than Hartman, I just don’t see the Scorpions (or the NASL) lasting.

  3. Kyle B 6 years ago

    David/Sam –

    I agree with both of you. It isn’t a comparison at all though…

    I almost see them as parallel narratives separated by 40 years.

    Seeing the worthless Chaparrals become the mighty Spurs (after several ownership changes, stadium changes, etc) allows me to dream about what might be starting here in San Antonio…both in February with the groundbreaking and in April with the first kick.

    As Crocketteers, we know to enjoy the present and support what we have AND to never stop pushing for what we ultimately desire.

    February 29th is only the beginning.


  4. Sergio 6 years ago

    Good read. At a basic level I think it can be argued that comparing Spurs to Scorpions is fair simply because it’s describing professional sports enduring and overcoming hardships. Point is we need to band together and show our support! My wife and I are Scorpion season ticket holders and will definitely do what we can to ensure that a professional team here in San Antonio succeeds!

    – Sergio

  5. Michael Macias 6 years ago

    There is no set timeline between phases. We are talking about a 2900 seat difference between phase 1 and phase 2. The Scorpions have built a plan that allows stadium expansion as fan support rises. I will think we need to average close to 6k in attendance and perhaps at least 3-4k season ticket holders before they announce phase 2.

    If you get a chance, listen to President Hitch on how they are targeting profitability for year 1 in Heroes Stadium due to great season ticket sales and corporate backing. If they can achieve this in year 1, imagine the possibilities in their own home, a soccer specific stadium at that.

    You have to admit that they are taking on these “obstacles” and as Kyle puts it, “the Scorpions have so far shown to be willing to back up every bold pronouncement they make, wowing the faithful and converting the skeptics.”

    Whether or not it is a good comparison to the Spurs is up for debate but you have to admit that they are making bold moves that can tell a story that they are here to overcome the obstacles. You have to commend them for building a soccer specific stadium and having a growth plan. It shows their commitment and even if we never see future phases out of Scorpions Stadium, we as fans should consider ourselves lucky that we finally have a team and now a stadium to call home. Other fans across this great country would easily swap places with us. Other fans (even at the MLS level) are still praying for a stadium built for soccer in their hometown.

    Our team has or will have:

    1. Top-notch training grounds
    2. MLS level Head Coach
    3. International players (some played for respective national team)
    4. MLS experienced players (those who played in 2011 MLS season).
    5. Multiple organized supporter groups.
    6. A Soccer Specific Stadium

    Now if they can achieve profitability in year 1, maybe future phases will come sooner rather than later. It is we the fans who can help speed up that timeline by building a bigger, stronger fanbase.

    Sure money and lots of money at that will help us achieve our MLS desires. But know this, MLS has San Antonio on their short list. A growing, fervent fanbase led by organized supporter groups will be just as important as the money. We know Don Garber is aware of the Crocketteers and the Scorpions. I have no doubts MLS is watching how we respond to our new team and how things develop with the new stadium.

    I am doing what I can control and that is continuing to build the Crocketteers and putting them in the stands, where we will do what we do best… Support!

  6. Dave 6 years ago

    I love everything the Scorpions are doing, but I think one mistake in thinking about the new stadium is that because it seats (eventually) 18,000+ and is soccer-specific that it will be MLS ready should the Scorps advance into MLS. It isn’t. That is a very, very nice stadium – but it isn’t an MLS stadium. If MLS does expand to San Antonio, it will only do so if a new and better stadium is built. An MLS Scorpions could play in the planned stadium for a year or two while a new stadium is built, but this stadium won’t be acceptable to MLS. All you need to do to consider why is to look at the recently opened MLS stadiums and compare costs. Sporting KC is considered the state of the art, and their stadium cost $180 million. We think MLS will be happy with a $20 million stadium? Not going to happen. The barrier to MLS for San Antonio (assuming MLS wants us, which I think they will) remains what it has always been: Finding the money to build a $200 million stadium.

  7. Jason 6 years ago

    As an outsider, I’d like to say how jealous I am of you Crocketteers and scorpion fans in general.

    I know you are discussing potential MLS but I have to say be happy with all that has been announced. You guys easily will have more than the average USL or NASL team. If anything with MLS expansion coming from lower leagues, you guys will stand out from the rest. Perhaps a future investor will see the potential in what Hartman is building.

    Do what you guys are doing to get the rest of the country noticing your market potential.

    Love the crocketeers logo btw and Victory or Death!

    Kick ass!

  8. David Salas 6 years ago

    I think we are discussing two different topics Michael. Nobody is criticizing Hartman’s achievements and bold moves, and I think we can all agree with your points of view about Hartman and the Scorpions organization.

    Of course we feel lucky of having a team in town. Most of us are already season ticket holders with a Scorpion’s Jersey waiting in the closet for the first match.

  9. Michael Macias 6 years ago

    Agreed David but I must say that I never said anyone here was criticizing the Scorps or Hartman. My post wasn’t to differentiate from yours or others. I just wanted to expand on what we know. I am in agreement about more money needed to make the next jump. I just wanted to add the support element being just as important as the money. I also wanted to make a point that when compared to other markets and teams below MLS, that we really stand out.

  10. Mika 5 years ago

    You didn’t know that? Strange… you’re always so well inmofred about these things…I’ve listening the show for quite a while now, especially because the objective and clever analysis they make.