Spurs legends celebrate new era as co-owners of the San Antonio Missions

Ten feet in front of me, two Spurs legends locked eyes on each other: David Robinson and Manu Ginobili. They smiled wide and I quickly pulled out my cell phone. I snapped three photos that warmed my heart – Robinson and Ginobili embracing each other. They started out as teammates… now they are co-owners of the San Antonio Missions.

David Robinson and Manu Ginobili

Our Double-A squad held its first home game of the season Tuesday night at Wolff Stadium. The Missions won 4-0, but the score didn’t matter. What should matter to local sports fans is the new ownership group that has taken control of the San Diego Padres farm team. It includes several local business heavy hitters, along with baseball legend Nolan Ryan. However, the names that are most eye catching to fans are Robinson and Ginobili.


Manu addressed the crowd before the game, saying “I want to thank you all for coming. I’m excited to be here for our first game. Thank you. I hope everyone has a great time, but now it’s time to play ball!”


The Missions won’t be playing ball at Wolff Stadium much longer, if the new ownership group, Designated Bidders, has its way. Yes, upgrades have been made to the west side facility, but the 29-year-old stadium is not up to Major League Baseball’s new standards. CEO Reid Ryan told me a new stadium needs to be accessible to people from all sides of town.

Manu Gniobili and David shake hands ahead of Missions opener

“If we’re going to build a new facility, having done it before in the Austin market and Corpus Christi market, you really need to think about how to bring in other events and activities year-round into the facility. All those people offset the cost of having baseball in the facility.” Reid Ryan said. “We really need a holistic plan but we’re not there yet. This is game one. Over the next couple months or years, I expect us to roll out something that is our vision for baseball in the future.”


That new vision includes more seats for fans and better amenities for players. Reid Ryan wants convention space as part of the new stadium, along with more safety netting and increased ADA compliant features for those with disabilities. Reid hopes the stadium becomes a destination for tourists visiting the Alamo City.


“I think downtown makes the most sense because you have the ability to draw the most people in the community in a reasonable amount of time – people from the north, west, south and east. You would have the ability to have tourists to come out. You know, San Antonio has a lot of tourism that comes into the downtown area. The more you can have visitors be part of what you’re doing, as well as citizens, all those activities lead to year-round engagement with the facility,” Reid Ryan said.


Reid’s father, Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, is happy to be involved in this San Antonio venture. Nolan and his son have enjoyed a history of success when it comes to reinvigorating minor league franchises. I asked Nolan about the ownership group’s short and long-term visions.


“Is there going to be a new stadium built? I think there’s maybe an opportunity for that. It’s hard to say, but I think this is going to be a long-term investment where we’re involved in baseball in San Antonio for quite a while,” Nolan Ryan said.


Nolan signed several autographs before heading up to the owners’ box. Several fans told me they were excited to see three Texas sports legends at the game. They are happy changes are coming. One fan described past attendance as “skittish” and hopes a new facility attracts more fans.


San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg tossed the ceremonial first pitch to David Robinson, who served as catcher. Nirenberg says the city needs to thoroughly evaluate several sites and believes a new stadium near the “city center” would be ideal. Nirenberg wants the Missions to create a bigger fan base. After all, butts in seats ultimately determine a franchise’s success. Having David Robinson and Manu Ginobili on board is a fantastic star.

“Having those icons, those heroes of San Antonio sports as part of the ownership group, is huge.” Mayor Nirenberg said. “Make no mistake. The real game changer here is that we have local San Antonians, which include David, Manu, and so many others that we respect and work well with. San Antonio control of the San Antonio Missions. Local ownership is a game changer and very positive for the future of the franchise.”

Good vibes between David Robinson and Manu Ginobili at the Missions game
The team’s future home site is still not known. But, if David Robinson and Manu Ginobili are involved, I’m sure the city will embrace the San Antonio Missions like lifelong friends… just like David and Manu did before the game.
What do you think about the Missions ownership group wanting a new stadium? Reach out to Michael on Twitter @MikeESPNSA. You can listen to him on “Jimenez & Spence” weekdays from Noon to 3 p.m.