Work in Sports
Home sweet home
Tim Duncan can probably stop worrying about relocating
Posted: Wednesday November 03, 1999 12:16 AM
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Proponents of a tourist tax to pay for a new $175 million arena for the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs claimed victory Tuesday evening in a referendum election.
With 31 percent of the votes counted, 66,811, or 60 percent, of Bexar County residents who voted approved a hike in hotel and rental-car taxes to pay for the proposed basketball arena while 44,745, or 40 percent, voted against the referendum.
The vote on increasing hotel taxes from 15 percent to 16.75 percent and car-rental taxes from 10 percent to 15 percent coincided with the Spurs' opening game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Spurs won their first title in the 26-year history of the franchise by defeating the New York Knicks 4-1 in June.
Arena backers and the Spurs, who could leave town if the new arena is not built, hoped excitement about San Antonio's championship would generate support for a new center.
The proposed state-of-the-art 18,500-seat arena is to be shared with the San Antonio Livestock Exposition three weeks a year, with the Spurs hoping to play in it by 2002 and controlling most of the revenue generated there.
Supporters said the Spurs need a modern arena with more lucrative luxury suites to produce revenue crucial to remaining competitive in the expensive world of pro basketball.
The Spurs plan to manage the building and oversee construction of the county-owned arena and lease it from Bexar County for 25 years.
Arena supporters were fighting the city's history of rejecting big-money ballot items. In the past, voters rejected a measure to add fluoride to the local water supply. A half-cent sales tax to build the Alamodome barely passed in 1989.
The Spurs and their rodeo and business allies spent more than $2 million through a "Saddles and Spurs" campaign committee. Arena critics have spent about a quarter of that.
The Spurs, who play in the six-year-old Alamodome, also pledged $28.5 million toward the arena's construction. The rest would be funded by bonds paid for by the car- and hotel-rental taxes and arena user fees.
Critics argued the Spurs should put up more money. Some major hotel owners also oppose increased taxes for tourists.
Even Mayor Howard Peak questioned where the money for road and other infrastructure work around the new arena would come from.
Spurs owners -- a group of more than 20 investors -- repeatedly said they want to keep the franchise in San Antonio.
But the battle to keep San Antonio's only major-league sports team in town heated up when New Orleans mayor Marc Morial publicly called for an effort to lure the Spurs or the Houston Rockets to New Orleans if the arena initiative in either city failed.
In return, Peak, who wants an NFL team for the Alamodome, shot back by saying he would see whether the New Orleans Saints were interested in moving to San Antonio.