Taking the Field
Several years ago, the city of San Antonio flirted with the possibility of becoming home to a new Major League Soccer franchise. Spearheaded by former mayor Ed Garza, the plan was met with an almost equal balance of detractors and advocates. Many lauded the expected economic benefit the league could have on the city, while others openly wondered if the community was capable of supporting another pro sports team.
Eventually, the idea of landing a MLS team exited quietly as Garza completed his tenure as city leader and ceded the office to current mayor Phil Hardberger.
But as the city’s economic base has expanded there are still those within the Alamo City who believe the MLS or another form of professional soccer could exist and thrive. Brothers Carlos and Gabriel Garcia along with several others are busy behind the scenes producing the necessary elements to make real football a reality in San Antonio.
The Garcia’s, owners of the famed El Chaparral Mexican restaurants, discussed their vision with NSIDE.
“We truly believe that major league soccer is inevitable in the City of San Antonio,” Gabriel says. “I mean it is the perfect fit for the city. In fact, in a study done by American City Business Journals to see which major league sport was the best match for the City of San Antonio, Major League Soccer blew everything out the water comparing baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer.”
Gabriel’s enthusiasm is readily visible. And he and his brother are not just talking heads, either. Both of them enjoyed successful careers in professional soccer. Now their sights are set in creating something special for soccer enthusiasts in South Texas.
The Garcia Brothers and El Chaparral Restaurants were a major sponsor of the Texas Pro Soccer Festival which was spearheaded by their close friend in soccer, Dr. Edward Sakiewicz. Ed is President of the San Antonio Metropolitan Youth Soccer Institute (SAMYS) and was also responsible for bringing San Antonio its first–ever MLS exhibition match in 2004. The first annual Texas Pro Soccer Festival held in Cibolo, Texas in March attracted four of the top teams from MLS. The field included the Houston Dynamo, DC United, Toronto FC andChivas USA. Of course, the festival was about more than exhibiting top–level soccer talent, it was about showing potential investors that San Antonio can and will support soccer. “The Garcia brothers were invaluable to the success of the first MLS match as well as the Festival. We are grateful for their generosity, friendship and support of bringing pro soccer to San Antonio,” said Sakiewicz.
Gabriel continued, “That is why this event is so important. Major League Soccer officials, coaches and staff were all in town for the event. Our goal is that they left here saying 'San Antonio does it right.’ We want the league commissioners to call these officials and find out how great our city is.”
The brothers and El Chapparal Restaurants, one of SAMYS’ biggest supporters and advocates, kicked off the soccer festival in fine style witha gala dinner at their Helotes, Texas location. Players from each of the competing teams gathered to enjoy a festive night, complete with food, drinks and of course, mariachis. The event helped spur interest in the soccer games that were to follow.
The Garcia brothers report that the Texas Pro Soccer Festival was a solid if not resounding success. “If we continue with another festival next year, we are going to do a few things differently,” Carlos says. “We are going to do more marketing early on to lead into the festival, and SAMYS has already started the process by working to build a new stadium dedicated to the festival.”
Sakiewicz praised the Garcia’s involvement, “I am extremely grateful to the Garcias for helping me band the community together to make this event successful. It was a remarkable achievement because we only had less than two months to plan and promote the event. The Garcias are incredibly gracious hosts and wonderful friends.”
Despite the first–run setbacks, the tournament still managed to draw a healthy 4,000+ attendants for the final game. This small victory provides a bit of momentum heading into future discussions about the viability of pro soccer in San Antonio.
For the Garcia brothers, this is more than just a victory for MLS inSan Antonio. As Gabriel puts it, this is a victory for the city’s youth and those who are desperate for more playing fields within the city limits.“Right now San Antonio is behind Austin, Dallas and Houston when it comes to the number and quality of playing fields available. Kids are out there getting hurt by playing on poor fields. This push is about giving these kids more places to practice and play.”
Expansion to 1604 & Redland
As passionately as they offer discourse on pro soccer, the Garcia brothers offer the same excited tone when discussing the soon–to–be opened El Chaparral.
Located at 1604 and Redland Rd., the newest addition to the El Chaparral stable is set to open in mid–May, and promises to deliver on the promise of “A Taste Like No Other.”
Three decades and two generations of experience have instilled immense pride in the Garcia family, a dedication to the highest quality food and outstanding customer service. “This will be our first San Antonio location,” says Gabriel. “We are really looking forward to it. In fact, we will be doing several parties for the community in that area. Part of the proceeds from one of those days will go to my sister’s scholarship fund, the Jessica Garcia Scholarship Fund.”
Jessica, who lost her life in a car accident in 1996, remains a huge part of what drives Carlos and Gabe. Her memory is kept strong through her scholarship fund and Jessica’s Jardin, a lush patio area located at their Helotes location. The 1604 & Redland location will also be home to Jessica’s Jardin, as the brothers continue to honor her life.
While guests in the 1604 and Redland area certainly have much to look forward to, the Garcia brothers want to remind them that the customer is always their number one priority. “You know, we are going to keep the same standard for quality at our new restaurant as our other stores. This is about the customer and making them feel welcome.”
With a business built on family, friends and faith, guests are sure to feel at home.