By Richard Webner | Heron contributor
This article has been updated with a statement from UTSA about its downtown campus strategy.
A partnership managed by Bruce Hill, one of the investors buying the San Antonio Missions double-A baseball team, purchased property on the near West Side in May, nearly adjacent to a site highlighted in a 2016 report as a suitable spot for a downtown baseball stadium.
The 5.2-acre property, 803 S. Medina St., is about 80 yards south of a 13.9-acre city-owned building complex facing South Frio Street that includes the Frank D. Wing Municipal Court Building, and which the report included among seven potential stadium sites. The property, which includes warehouse space, is also north of the Guadalupe Street bridge.
The report was prepared for the city and Centro San Antonio by Barrett Sports Group, a consulting firm.
It’s unclear whether the purchase, made using a $6.1 million loan from the United Farm Family Life Insurance Company, is related to the investors’ search for a site to build a downtown stadium. Hill didn’t respond to a phone call or email requesting comment.
The investment group pursuing the baseball team’s purchase, which was first reported by the San Antonio Express-News, includes Rackspace co-founder Graham Weston, whose development company Weston Urban has been ambitiously building on west downtown property it’s acquired in recent years.
The city-owned property on Frio, home to several buildings of the San Antonio Police Department, has also been targeted as a potential expansion site for the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus across the street. A master plan that UTSA drafted in 2019 shows the site filled with mid-rise campus housing.
In 2019, when UTSA unveiled its 10-year vision for its downtown campus, the city said it was prepared to transfer the property to the university, but the sale would be contingent on UTSA completing a study measuring the potential impact—both in terms of economic development and displacement of long-time West Side residents—of its expansion.
The city doesn’t have plans for the property and hasn’t been in talks with anyone about using it for a stadium, Kelly Saunders, spokeswoman for the city’s Center City Development and Operations Department, said this week in an email.
In an email to the Heron on Friday, the university said it was focussing on its Dolorosa properties, east of Interstate 10 in downtown. Those expansion projects include the $91.8 million School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center at 506 Dolorosa, which is scheduled to open next semester. It was Weston who contributed $15 million in philanthropic dollars to help fund UTSA’s new downtown building.
“We have chosen not to pursue any exploration of the possible acquisition of the Frio street properties at this time,” Joe Izbrand, UTSA’s chief communications officer, said in a statement. “Any decisions about our future real estate needs will occur once the university completes a refresh of its strategic plan, which and will guide our future growth. We are not a party to any discussion about the location for a proposed baseball stadium.”
The 2016 report identifies the city-owned property on Frio as a “Tier 2 site” for a baseball stadium, noting that while it has the advantage of being close to downtown, it “presents challenges due to railroad tracks and a highway.” A Union Pacific track runs along the western edge of the property, as well as that of the property purchased by Hill’s partnership.
Potential baseball stadium sites (from 2016 study)
Hill formed that partnership, Chilton Real Estate – Medina LP, in March with a co-manager, Roger Hill, according to filings from the Texas Secretary of State. The property is home to a warehouse with space leased by Lone Star Materials, a construction supply company, as well as about two acres of parking lot.
The partnership purchased the land from AK Gillis & Sons I Ltd., county deed records show. AK Gillis & Sons kept ownership of a 2.7-acre warehouse property directly north, sitting between the partnership’s land and the city-owned land.
In June, the Heron first reported that Weston Urban was hunting for land for a potential baseball stadium, specifically along the northern end of San Pedro Creek.
Around May, Weston Urban executives approached at least two owners of property near the northern terminus of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park seeking to buy land to build a stadium there, the Heron first reported.
They targeted land within the block bounded by Kingsbury, Camaron, West Martin and North Flores streets—another of the sites highlighted in the 2016 report.
[ Heron: Exclusive: Weston Urban pursuing land for potential sports stadium in downtown San Antonio | June 30, 2022 ]
One of those owners was the arts nonprofit Artpace San Antonio, which operates a parking lot and workshop within the block. Riley Robinson, the nonprofit’s director, said on Monday that Weston Urban hadn’t reached out since that meeting. He has said that the nonprofit isn’t looking to sell.
On Aug. 25, Bruce Hill and Roger Hill formed another partnership named Chilton Real Estate – San Pedro, state filings show.
Both that company and Chilton Real Estate – Medina share an address with BHCH Mineral, the oil and gas investment firm where Bruce Hill serves as president and principal owner, according to the website for Fulton Property Group, a residential development firm where he serves as a principal. That website also identifies him as a board member and part owner of the Spurs.
The current owner of the Missions, Elmore Sports Group, is expected to sell the team on Nov. 15 to the investors, who are operating through a company named Designated Bidders LLC, according to the agenda for City Council’s meeting on Thursday. Hill formed Designated Bidders in April and is listed as its manager, state filings show.
On Thursday, council will vote on whether to reassign the lease it had inked Elmore, allowing Elmore to use the city-owned Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium, to another entity owned by Designated Bidders.
Richard Webner is a freelance journalist covering Austin and San Antonio, and a former San Antonio Express-News business reporter.
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