The San Antonio Spurs have done a marvelous job building a winning brand. There are the five championships, obviously. Just as important, though, is the organization’s long track record of community service, and the genuine love Spurs players shower on our city.
When people talk about the so-called “Spurs way,” it’s a big compliment. The implication being winning begins with the foundation of character, discipline, service and a team-first approach. That’s why we were disappointed to read about the Spurs billing Bexar County $255,000 to use the AT&T Center as a voting site this past election.
Is this the Spurs way?
Unless there is a better explanation for these charges, the Spurs should withdraw this bill, and in the parlance of basketball talk, offer up Bexar County a “my bad.”
Why? Here are three considerations:
First and foremost, the AT&T Center is a county-owned building, which the Spurs lease. At the most basic level, it’s just backward that the Spurs organization, with a massive team payroll, is billing the county $255,000 because taxpayers used this taxpayer-owned building to vote safely during a pandemic.
Did the Spurs PR department not think about this framing? Certainly, the negative PR hit alone about this bill is worth $255,000.
Second, was the cost really $255,000? The Spurs say so, billing for security, parking lot staff and cleaning. While the Spurs have no obligation to subsidize voting — although there is a moral argument given the civic activism we have seen from athletes — this bill seems unusually high compared with other mega voting centers here and at arenas in other markets.
For example, as Express-News reporter Joshua Fechter recently outlined, the Alzafar Shrine and St. Paul’s Community Center mega voting sites cost the county $18,100 and $16,000, respectively.
It also is nowhere near the bills submitted in other NBA cities. The Houston Rockets billed $4,400. The Denver Nuggets billed $3,700. The Cleveland Cavaliers will be paid $300, which is the standard rate for any polling facility there. Six other teams didn’t bill anything — including the owners of the Utah Jazz, which refused a standard $50 stipend from the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office.
Third, let’s also remember that in October, Bexar County Commissioners Court agreed to allocate up to $2.2 million in CARES Act funding for “COVID-19 related modifications” at the AT&T Center — a move that benefits the Spurs.