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Amid relocation fears, Spurs' courtship of Austin market may be just what they need to thrive in San Antonio

Some fear the team may consider moving up 35, but expanding the brand and tapping another booming market nearby may help them stay right where they are.

SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs' plan to play four home games away from the AT&T Center is being met with some fear that the organization is considering a move, but it may indicate a further commitment to building right where they are.

In May, Bexar County Commissioners voted 3-2 to tentatively approve allowing the Spurs to play two home games in Austin, one in Mexico, and one in the Alamodome this season.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said the split vote was "not a good sign" ahead of a final vote, and reflected worry from fans and some elected officials that the team is testing the waters on a relocation plan much bigger than 10% of their home games.

Two weeks later, when the plan was approved in a 4-1 vote, Wolff said he felt much better about the team's intentions. A letter from the controlling owner restating the team's commitment to San Antonio helped a bit. 

"I don't think we could've asked for any more. [Peter J. Holt] owns the vast majority of the Spurs, twice as much as anybody else, so I feel very confident about that and the fact we've got to enlarge the base of attendance," Wolff said after the vote.

The Spurs see it as an opportunity to expand their homecourt advantage from Austin to Mexico, with San Antonio as the hub of an expanding market "for the next 50 years."

A history of relocation rumors

The Spurs started as the Dallas Chaparrals of the ABA in 1967. As the team struggled to generate interest, they briefly rebranded as the Texas Chaparrals and played some home games in Fort Worth and Lubbock in the 1970-71 season.

Dallas missed the playoffs for the first time in 1972-73, and the team's initial ownership group was already looking for an off-ramp. Investors from San Antonio led by Red McCombs worked out a deal that allowed them to bring the team to the Alamo City for a few years before deciding to purchase it. The city got behind the team pretty quickly and made it a no-brainer.

When the ABA merged with the NBA, San Antonio was one of four teams that made the transition. George Gervin led the team to a moderate level of success on the court, but no titles. After he was traded to the Bulls in the twilight of his career, San Antonio won just 35% of their games over the next four seasons. Losing led to disinterest, which led to lower attendance at the old Hemisfair Arena, which led to relocation rumors. McCombs wanted a bigger home arena, and that came in the form of the Alamodome.

Drafting David Robinson helped the team go from 21-61 in 1988-89 to 56-26 the very next season. It wasn't all roses, though. In one of his final acts as owner of the team, McCombs hired UNLV's Jerry Tarkanian and fired him after a 9-11 start to the 1992-93 season.

That's about the time that Peter M. Holt and other local investors purchased the team for $75 million. According to the letter written recently by his son Peter J. Holt, keeping the team in San Antonio was a motivating factor.

"My family became involved in the Spurs in the '90s because there was a real threat that the team would be moved," he said. "We would not let that happen then, and we will not let that happen now."

RELATED: Spurs' Peter J. Holt pens heartfelt letter to the City of San Antonio

Another rough season came along in 1996-97, but so did a head coach named Gregg Popovich and a top pick named Tim Duncan. That combination helped deliver the city's first ever major professional sports championship in 1999. 

Despite that, there were again real concerns that the team might move. Voters in Bexar County initially rejected a plan to raise taxes on car rentals and hotels to fund the construction of what we now know as the AT&T Center. The plan was eventually approved, on the same day that the team got their 1999 championship rings.

There was a real chance the new arena would be built next to the Alamodome downtown, but instead it was built on the east side next to the Freeman Coliseum. 

The building cost $175 million in mostly government money to open, and the team signed a non-relocation agreement that would cost them if they moved before the lease expires in 2032. It started with a penalty of $250 million in 2003, and dropped by $6 million per year, so any move before 2028 would cost the team $100 million or more.

However, it's not a secret that the arena's location away from the city center is not ideal and has not led to the kind of development in the area that local leaders and the team hoped for.

Then there's the context that the Spurs have won four titles in that building, but none since the Obama administration. The Big Three are long gone, and after missing the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, then again, attendance numbers are certainly down.

"We're used to having a level of excellence where we've got the great coach Popovich and regular deep playoff runs, and aspiring for championships," said Ricard Jensen, a marketing professor at UTSA with expertise in sports management, sports marketing and event management. 

"Gregg won't be around forever, so who do we get to take his place? And then we also have seen where the NBA superstars aren't really circling San Antonio as a place they would love to come and play," he said. "Part of our popularity is, 'We're champions, we're winners, we have a legendary coach.' If all those things implode and are no longer true, it might be harder for these loyal Spurs fans, who are paying a lot to support the team and buy tickets, will that same support be continued if the team can't play or function at the same high level that we've been used to?"

When that lease is up in 2032, the Spurs may not be all that interested in renewing it. A new home arena may soon be a priority for the organization, and negotiations might start sooner than you'd think.  

"Over the short term, it wouldn't surprise me if the Spurs say, 'OK, San Antonio and Bexar County, we need to have a new arena with all the features.'" Jensen said. "There are so many sports teams, even though they have good arenas or good stadiums, are still telling politicians, 'we need to get a palace that's bigger, that makes more money.' So again, I'm not sure if the Spurs are gonna wait until 2032 to ask for a new arena."

The Holts have made it clear that they want to stay here in Bexar County, but what if they also make it clear that they want a new arena to keep them here? What if the Spurs don't want to foot the bill, and the local government doesn't want to either? Disputes like that are why the Super Sonics left Seattle for Oklahoma City and why the Kings almost left Sacramento.

RELATED: Spurs' Peter J. Holt pens heartfelt letter to the City of San Antonio

So far, the Spurs haven't said anything about wanting a new arena, but you can bet that they're looking ahead and doing their due diligence.

RELATED: Did the Spurs ask for a new arena? Commissioner Calvert says no

There's also the recent history of San Antonio and Austin competing over teams, and San Antonio coming out on the short end.

"Sometimes Austin and San Antonio are fighting over the same sports entities. So when Major League Soccer moved to Austin, I think the Spurs bought San Antonio FC with the idea of bringing Major League Soccer to San Antonio. It went to Austin instead."

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recently spoke to the Express News about pro teams flirting with the Alamo City, and he didn't hold back.

"These guys coming to you looking to move, they are the hand maidens of the devil and more treacherous. They are a bunch of lying sons of bitches, every single one of them," he said. "I fell for the Marlins. (Former Mayor) Phil (Hardberger) fell for the New Orleans thing. (Former Mayor) Henry (Cisneros) fell for the Oakland football thing, and I fell for Major League Soccer. You are wasting your time talking to them. They just use you."

With  all of that context, it's understandable that Spurs fans and lawmakers are wary of the Spurs' exploration of the Austin market.

Nonetheless, there are signs that the Spurs are still committed to San Antonio that go beyond the words of ownership. Late in 2021, the organization broke ground on The Rock at La Cantera, a human performance campus including a research center, a 22-acre park, and space for medical, hospitality and commercial use worth $500 million. 

RELATED: The Rock at La Cantera | Spurs break ground on new human performance campus

"You would think if the governmental entities and the Spurs put money into that, that might be a signal, 'Well, why are we going to build this thing if we're gonna move someplace else?'" Jensen said.

Austin's new Moody Center

The privately-funded Moody Center cost a cool $338 million and sits on the University of Texas campus right in the heart of Austin. It will replace the old Frank Erwin drum and already has become the premier concert venue in the live music capital of the world.

Credit: John Gusky
Photo by KVUE's John Gusky.

Professor Ethan Burris is the director of the Business of Sports Institute at UT, and he's pretty stoked on the state-of-the-art arena.

"Perhaps one of the things I'm most excited about when it gets back to college basketball season, there's several different levels of seating. One of the awesome things about the college basketball atmosphere is as a smaller, intimate, rabid fan base right on top of the visiting team. But for concerts, you want expanded seating, and to be able to pack in a pretty large crowd. And so they're able to adjust the seating by by essentially closing the upper deck. And so you kind of get that small town, classic basketball stadium feel," he said.

The standard setup for UT basketball games will just use the lower bowl and suite level, with seating for about 10,000 fans. Capacity is closer to 15,000 for concerts, and theoretically there's no reason they couldn't open that upper deck for a basketball game if enough fans wanted tickets.

Live Nation is one of many corporate partners involved in the arena, which has already hosted concerts by Andrea Bocelli, Kendrick Lamar, James Taylor, and others.

RELATED: Harry Styles announces 5-show residency in Austin

Whatever the event, the venue is fully equipped to provide Austin staples to fans and a plush experience to VIPs. Murals from local artists can be found all over, an outdoor terrace overlooks the campus and skyline. From a Tito's Vodka bar on the main concourse to swanky areas like the Dell Technologies Club at center court, it's pretty far removed from your typical college barn. 

"There's fantastic food there, it's not your regular concession stand stuff. They also have fun spots in the stadium itself, like it kind of has like a speakeasy feel for part of it. There's lounge areas, obviously the box seats and premium seating as well," Burris said.

There are 44 suites, 57 loge boxes, almost 2,000 club seats, three premium clubs, and something called the Moët & Chandon Impérial Lounge, which looks as expensive and exclusive as it sounds. The suite and club memberships are all sold out already, but you can join the waiting list.

And you can bet that the Spurs games in Austin, at the Alamodome, and in Mexico City will involve a whole lot of event planning to make it a special experience for all the fans who come out.

"If you look at tourism on the back end, maybe the Spurs can create great fan experiences like an ESPN Gameday experience so that this game in Mexico City is not just a basketball game, but it's part of an immersive experience that draws a fan-fest type of atmosphere and brings a whole lot of people together and gets them into the NBA. Surely we can do that in Austin also," Jensen said.

While the Moody Center is a perfect place for a couple of Spurs home games, it doesn't make sense as a long-term home for the Silver & Black for a number of reasons. 

Reports were that the Spurs wanted to split up the Rodeo Road Trip with a few games there, but instead it will be the final two games of the regular season. UT's men's and women's programs call the arena home, and the concert schedule is pretty packed as well. Add in the fact that it would be the smallest NBA arena, and it seems highly unlikely that the Spurs would want to play all of their home games there even if they were able.

That means that if the Spurs wanted a more permanent move up to Austin they would need a new arena, and the existence of the Moody Center means that it probably wouldn't be a huge priority for the city to build another brand new venue of that magnitude.

Michael Dell and Austin money

The Holt family still owns a majority stake in Spurs Sports and Entertainment, but investors from Austin have recently purchased a significant stake in the team.

Sixth Street Partners, a firm that manages about $60 billion in assets, bought a 20% stake in the team in 2021. Michael Dell, who founded Dell Technologies in his UT dorm room and turned it into one of the world's tech giants, bought a 10% stake at the same time. Dell is one of the many corporate sponsors for the aforementioned Moody Center.

RELATED: Airbnb co-founder joins Spurs ownership group per report

"To me, this thing in Austin makes some sense because Michael Dell had purchased a large stake in the Spurs, it does make some sense for him perhaps to try to get a few games in Austin, they're at that brand new arena, and I think there's a huge amount of fandom in Austin for that," Jensen said.

The fear among some Spurs fans is that investors from Austin may eventually want more than just the two home games.

Dell certainly isn't the most conspicuous billionaire out there, but between his company and his investments, Forbes estimates that he's one of the 25 richest people in the world with a net worth around $50 billion.

It's difficult to conceptualize how much money that is, but the bottom line is that he has more than enough dough to purchase the team and pay any costs of relocating the franchise without breaking a sweat.

The Holts would need to willingly give up their majority stake, however, and that seems even less likely after Peter J Holt's letter to San Antonio.

"I haven't heard anything, so I don't think there's any plans in place," Burris said. "The Holt family is a terrific investor, not only in the team, but in the community within San Antonio. I don't know if they have plans in selling, and they're the majority stakeholder I believe, but there's a lot of other minority stakeholders that have pretty significant ties to the community in San Antonio."

That leads into another idea, that even if the Holts sold controlling interest to Dell or another investor, moving the team out of San Antonio might not be the most prudent business decision.

"Any time you look to move a team, that's a pretty significant decision play. The last time that happened in the NBA, you take a team out of Seattle, and they still talk about the ramifications for that," Burris said. "So I don't think that they, that anyone would do that lightly. Those are some major considerations to uproot a team out of one city and plop them in another, even if it's relatively close in terms of a particular market."

Speaking of the Pacific Northwest, the Golden State Warriors just packed up and left the rowdy, undeniably special Oracle Arena in Oakland and headed across the bay to a fancy new building in San Francisco. It's just 16.6 miles to the Chase Center, but that drive could take an hour with traffic. Crossing the bridge may put the team in a better position to rake in as many of those tech dollars as possible, but at what cost? It's a question that will take years to answer, but the atmosphere is certainly different than it was at the aptly nicknamed 'Roaracle.'

The Spurs have been a major part of this city for half a century. If you asked a hundred people to name something iconic associated with San Antonio, the answers you'd probably get most are the Alamo, the Riverwalk, and the Spurs. They're undeniably part of the fabric of this community, and uprooting the team to put it anywhere else would be an extreme risk that would break the heart of many a diehard fan.

The Spurs' roots go all the way to the bedrock of San Antonio. The team's stated goal of spreading those roots all the way up to Austin and all the way down through south Texas into Mexico may be the best way for the franchise to get stronger.

The Austin-San Antonio corridor

If you live in San Antonio, Austin or the area in between, you know that this is a part of the country that's growing rapidly. San Antonio is often considered a small market when it comes to the NBA, but with nearly 1.5 million people calling the Alamo City home, it ranks as the seventh-biggest city in the country.

That's about 10% growth since the 2010 census, which is a lot, but it pales in comparison to Austin. About a million people live in Texas' capital, making it the eleventh-most populous city in the country. The city has experienced an eye-popping 26% growth since 2010 as companies and workers relocate to the Lone Star Silicon Valley.

As the price of everything from breakfast tacos to rent continues to rise with the population, many of the smaller cities nearby are seeing even higher rates of growth. New Braunfels ranks as the third-fastest growing city in America, and Cedar Park and Round Rock both crack the top 15

"We're all hearing now that the whole area from Austin to San Antonio may become a corridor, you'll be traveling through cities all the way to get into Austin," Jensen said. "I suppose a league could look at that and say, 'We're not just supporting a team in San Antonio, it's a team in Austin-San Antonio,' that seems to have some good promise to it."

All that growth is enticing for major businesses in the area, especially if a company in San Antonio sees a largely untapped opportunity to expand their customer base and corporate connections up 35 to where all that money is coming in.

"You have two of the 11 largest cities within 90 miles of each other," Burris said. "And so that's a huge opportunity. It's also not exactly unique. So if, again, if you go to the Bay Area, Oracle Arena is parked in a spot, but the Bay Area also includes Oakland, and north of San Francisco all the way down into Silicon Valley and into San Jose. That's a huge area and market that the Golden State Warriors are trying to attract. So it's not exactly a unique or unsolvable challenge that's ahead for the Spurs. But it does take a lot of work to think about."

Doise Miers is the community outreach manager for the Capital Area Metro Planning Organization, or CAMPO. Their policy board is tasked with distributing federal transportation dollars for the region, and creating plans and projects in the short and long term.

"It's not just roads and highways we're looking at but also transit, walking, biking," Miers said. "Something that has definitely become popular over the past two years is what we call transportation demand management where we look at strategies and technology to help alleviate especially some of that single occupancy vehicle travel during the peak hours."

Miers said that by 2045, they're estimating that the region from San Antonio up to Killeen and Temple will be home to about 10 million people. There are currently 2 million people in the CAMPO region, and she expects that number to double in the next 20 years or so.

"As far as employment, we're looking at doubling our employment rates also in the next 25 years," Miers said. "Some of the counties like Hays County, Caldwell County, we're looking at over 200% growth for employment. Bastrop County, we're looking at over 300% growth for employment by 2045."

All of that growth is spilling over to the less talked about population centers near Austin and San Antonio. If you do the drive from one to the other, there's a lot less empty space in between. Miers notes that rising housing costs are pushing many who work in Austin or San Antonio to find a cheaper place to live nearby, and those population centers are filling with people and development. 

"I remember back when there used to be a gap between Georgetown and Round Rock, there used to be a gap between Austin and San Marcos, between San Marcos and the New Braunfels, Garden Ridge area," Miers said. "There used to be two safety rest areas, one in Round Rock and one down by Garden Ridge that TxDOT closed because those areas now are so developed that you don't need a place to pull off and take a break and use the restroom anymore, because there are gas stations and development all along through there. So there's not the gaps between towns that there used to be, and that's one of the things that we definitely consider as we're working on this 2045 plan and our long range plan."

The Spurs see San Antonio, Austin and everything in between as a booming market that they can tap into on a number of levels, and why shouldn't they?

Solving the I-35 problem

It's only about 75 miles from the AT&T Center to the Moody Center, but most of that is driven on an increasingly congested I-35 through construction that seemingly never ends.

"The challenge for (the Spurs), it's literally the 35 problem," Burris said. "So if you're gonna engage a fan base up in Austin, you're gonna try and get them to come down to a game on a weeknight in San Antonio, that's not always the easiest and smoothest ride down there. So what can you do to still engage your fan base in a way that's compelling and interesting and unique and different, all that kind of stuff, and make it easy to then root and have some attachment to the team, when perhaps it's difficult to travel down 35 all the time? That's essentially it. You can host games up here, so a couple games a year, that will certainly create an additional fan base up in Austin."

"Maybe we might get a few more thousand fans coming from Austin to travel down 35 to watch games here," Jensen said.

That's certainly part of the calculus for the Spurs organization as they plan to not just host a few games up in Austin, but to engage new fans and encourage them to come on down to San Antonio every now and then. There are plans for rideshare services and buses from and back to the sister city to the north, and helicopter rides for the high rollers.

The car is still king in Texas though. A rail system connecting Austin and San Antonio is something many have clamored for over the years, but it's not as simple as it sounds. Experts say a project like that would be expensive and difficult to execute with some of the bodies of water and other geographical features in between, and it would take a long time to get up and running. Then once you get to that other city you'd have to get around there, and neither is really built for walkability, though that's another thing the various transportation entities are working on.

Miers says that for our area, there's more of a demand and possibility for long-distance bus lines and van pools to increase the connectivity of nearby population centers. Some are optimistic that all of the tech money and innovation in Austin will find its way into the transportation sector, too.

"There's all sorts of rumors from rail systems to, we have a certain different tech billionaire that has opened up a large manufacturing plant, and he also happens to own another organization that makes tunnels and so you start to have that, and that provides a different type of speedy traffic, or speed through the traffic," Burris said. "There's lots of different options that could be available."

Tunnels bring their own unique challenges, and so does working with Elon Musk, so it's not exactly a short-term solution to the traffic on 35.

One thing that should help, however, is the focus on improving the more local major roads around I-35 to help reduce the amount of traffic on the main thoroughfare.

"When we were putting together the 2045 plan, we looked at the need for what we call a better supportive regional arterial system," Miers said. "A lot of the trips especially between Austin and San Antonio or Georgetown and seen Antonio really, they were like three and four mile trips. An interstate was designed for long distance travel, but because we lack the arterial system in this region, we don't have kind of those boulevards and other roads that you can take a trip from your house to the grocery store, or in some cases a trip from your office to the doctor or to pick up your kids or something like that.  We don't have that kind of local network that is not an interstate, so that's why you've got a lot of three or four mile trips that are happening on Interstate 35 instead of having that regional arterial network that's really supported."

There are a number of projects currently in the works to support that arterial system and hopefully reduce the amount of local traffic on 35, opening it up for the longer trips it was really meant for.

Viva Las Vegas?

At this point it seems unlikely that the Spurs would relocate to Austin full time. But if local fans and lawmakers' worst fears about Austin came true, at least the team would still be a relatively short drive away. The same can't be said for the other city most frequently tied to Spurs relocation rumors.

"The fear I have, and it's a fear of, I think most people have, is we lost our WNBA team to Las Vegas. We lost our American Hockey League team to Vegas, also, Vegas has made no secret of the idea that they want to have an NBA team and they've lined up some pretty good people to invest in that," Jensen said. "So if I'm in Las Vegas, if I want a team, would I want to get an expansion team, which is gonna go through a painful process of having to grow that team over a number of years? Or do I just want to steal a team that because it's won several championships it has a great history and a legacy to it. So that's the fear I would have is, there's so much money in Vegas, and soon to get the Oakland A's baseball team and Major League Baseball. In fact, there's a casino that wants to build a ballpark for them on the Las Vegas Strip. I think we can be a little bit concerned about what Las Vegas might do trying to get the Spurs from us. And no one wants that to happen. But in this world of billions of dollars pro sports, that's something that we can't ignore. I would love the Spurs to be here for as long as you and I live. But I'm not sure that's totally something we can bank on."

Vegas is one of the entertainment capitals of the world, and any pro team that calls it home will likely see a reliable stream of income from local fans and tourists alike. But for fans who live in San Antonio, it would be heartbreaking if their team moved out to a place where they'd need to get on a plane and travel to one of the more expensive destinations in the country.

The Spurs are certainly aware of fans' fears of relocation, and the letter from Holt was pretty clear about his family's intention to keep the team in Bexar County.

"The Spurs are as much a part of San Antonio as San Antonio is a part of the Spurs," Holt wrote. "There are no Spurs without the city and the people of San Antonio."

That closeness with the community may be the single most compelling business reason to keep the Spurs in San Antonio. 

Building where they are

If the Spurs are going to succeed on the business side of things without leaving Bexar County, it makes a lot of sense for them to expand their footprint right where they are.

RC Buford has spoken recently about the games in Austin and Mexico as part of a broader plan to court and engage fans in that entire region, with San Antonio uniquely positioned both culturally and geographically to be the center of it all. With all of the growth in the area in terms of potential fans and partners, it makes sense for the team to tap into as much of that as possible.

The Spurs have spent 50 years in San Antonio marked by two decades of dynastic success that will be difficult for any pro team to match the way championship contenders are built in this day and age. If you're a sports fan from San Antonio, there's a high likelihood that you bleed silver and black. In order to really grow that fanbase, reaching up to Austin and down to Mexico where the team's presence is less saturated is a necessity. 

"The opportunity up in Austin for San Antonio and the Spurs in particular, I think is quite tremendous," Burris said. "Obviously, the city of Austin is growing leaps and bounds. There's a particular demographic that's also growing with businesses and tech and, entrepreneurship, new ventures, like there's a buzz and energy that is up here that sports teams should want to be able to tap and capture."

This is especially true as the team enters a full rebuild after all of that success. It's no secret that a team full of teenagers that just traded their All-Star for draft picks down the road doesn't see itself as a title contender in the short term. Next year will almost certainly bring more losing than the organization has suffered since an injury plagued season in 1997 that brought them the top pick in the draft and a franchise cornerstone in Tim Duncan.

After a few years of missing the playoffs in the midst of a pandemic, attendance and viewership numbers were down a bit. The passion of Spurs fans is undeniable, but there's also a large segment of the fanbase that hasn't been nearly as engaged as they were in the days of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.

"How I read things is that the Spurs have been pretty obvious to people here that they aren't making as much money as they would like to make," Jensen said. "They are announcing some cost-cutting measures, they're now trying to do things to get more fans from other places. It does seem as though that there are some signals, if you look at the tea leaves and things, that the Spurs aren't happy with how much money they're making."

On the court, the Spurs will prioritize developing the young players, and that will likely result in a season of growing pains, learning lessons, and enough losses to hopefully draft a franchise cornerstone and eventually bring the team back to the top of the mountain.

Off the court, the Spurs will need to find more creative ways to engage fans and build the brand. Seeing what they can do in Austin is a no-brainer.

"Figuring out ways to reach a fan base, develop that interest," Burris said. "And it's not just individual fans, it's also corporate sponsorships, advertising, business and things like that. To be able to kind of smooth that process across, two cities that are 70 to 90 miles away, it's not that far. And so from just a business standpoint, from a reach standpoint, and from the opportunity to tap into a tremendous amount of energy, young energy and progressive energy around technology, there's just a tremendous opportunity for the Spurs."

Credit: Adobe/KENS illustration

Burris also pointed to the increasing connectivity between sports and technology as a major feather in Austin's cap.

"The reason for that is not just tech billionaires that are interested in sports, it's because the sports industry relies on the tech industry to provide insight analysis, analytics, and a different type of nuance to understanding the game," he said. "If you go to ESPN right now, and you look at the coverage of the playoff basketball, yes, there's stories about particular players and their stories about hard fouls and who's getting kicked out of games. There's also stories that leverage a new wave of analytics and data to provide insights into the game that just were not there even five years ago. And so apart from just a large and growing market, it's also a particular kind of market that should be most attractive, and should provide a lot of value to a sporting organization. And to me that that's why organization like the Spurs should be interested in what's happening up in Austin."

As far as sponsors go, we're already seeing the Spurs collaborate with companies that call Austin home. The new sponsor on the jerseys is Self, a credit building company up there. They also partnered with Indeed to offer a national Job Search Academy.

RELATED: Spurs announce Self Financial as new uniform sponsor

"I think from the Spurs perspective, we're looking at this in terms of a deeper reach into a market and set of organizations and businesses and potential corporate sponsorships that, just to focus in San Antonio alone probably wouldn't provide as much value," Burris said. "If they can have some presence up here, then that certainly helps with that reach."

"At the same time, I think there's a tremendous opportunity for Austin to engage in that sports organization," he said. "There's lots of not only tech firms, but others that have that interest in the intersection of business and sports, and kind of leverage the natural energy that people have for their own sports teams. If you're able to provide a showcase and a pathway to do that, and that's a different type of reach and market that you're able to tap into that it's kind of hard otherwise to do."

Plenty of diehard Spurs fans here in San Antonio will ask, "Why are the Spurs putting so much effort into courting Austin if they're not gonna move there?" The answer is that it's close enough to tap into the fandom, money and innovation that's booming just up the road. Why wouldn't they?

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